Veteran Loony foresees advance to fourth place: The Newbury By-Election: Screaming Lord Sutch is gaining. Patricia Wynn Davies finds the odds against him are only 100-1

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Indy Politics
One of the candidates in the Newbury by-election is holding a victory party tonight in advance of tomorrow's contest. But then none of the other 18 contenders, loony though some appear, is quite so loony as Lord David Sutch, leader of the 'official' Monster Raving Loony 30 Year Party.

Punters at the Screaming Lord Sutch and Savages gig at the White House pub in London Road will be asked to participate in a mock election, a Loony pre-election tradition. The party invariably wins. The real thing might also prove moderately successful. William Hill is offering odds of just 100-1 on the world's first rock'n'roll politician getting back (for the first time) his pounds 500 deposit, instead of the usual 500-1, while Sutch reckons he will come fourth, beating the Greens as he did Monmouth.

With the exception of the seminal election slogan - 'Vote for Insanity . . . You Know It Makes Sense' - subtlety is not David Sutch's strong suit. The acts that have financed his 37 appearances on the hustings involve crocodiles on stage, flaming top hats and coming on in a coffin.

But as he sees it, 'there's always a serious message through a bit of fun.' As the National Teenage Party candidate in 1963 he stood for votes at 18. As a Loony he later saw campaigns for legalised commercial and local radio and all-day pub opening eventually implemented. The latest manifestations of Loonyism - making Newbury's Kennet river into a theme park complete with crocodiles, for example - look more doubtful.

In a style reminiscent of an election candidate listing his party loyalties, Sutch lists a string of big 'names' who have done time in his band, or played as his support acts. He seems content with the lesser role dictated by his penchant for the 'rock'n'horror' genre. At 52, he has eight albums on CD, a cult following - not all of them ageing rockers - and tours abroad.

John Major, for one, might be proud of him. Born in north-west London of a working class Sheffield mining family, a non-smoker who shuns heavy drinking or drug taking, he now lives 'comfortably', despite a hangover of debt from the general election, with his girlfriend in a five- floor west London home. Tristan, his 18-year-old son by his former wife, lives in the United States.

With the exception of his political hero, Winston Churchill, and a sneaking regard for Margaret Thatcher, he is not much impressed with unofficial loonies (mainstream politicians) and attendant scandals - 'poor old Profumo lost his job like a rocket' - or the craze for knocking Britain and the Royal family.

(Photograph omitted)