Screaming Lord Sutch
Monster Raving Loony Party candidate who
offered leadership to Dr David
Owen after helping him to see that the game was up for the Social
SCREAMING LORD SUTCH,
who has died aged 58, began his career as a rock singer, but went
on to define himself in the public eye as a parliamentary
candidate, latterly for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.
For 30 years his manic grin and leopard
skin topper were a staple part of election night entertainment. Powerful politicians - for Sutch had a
penchant for standing against party leaders - not merely had their
portentousness deflated by his presence; they were even obliged to look
amused, at least before the cameras.
Beginning in 1963, Sutch stood for Parliament 39 times, polling some 15,000
votes, forfeiting more than £10,000 in lost deposits and incurring
£85,000 in campaign expenses. He
also fought one Euro-election, in 1989, but had to admit he was no match
for the Euro-loonies in Strasbourg.
Sutch's strongest showing was at Rotherham in May 1994 when he polled
1,114 votes, only some 200 short of the number required for saving his deposit. His most significant result, however, was at Bootle in May 1990, when
he scored 418 votes to the Social Democrats' 155 - a result which helped
to convince Dr David Owen that the game was up for his party.
In the aftermath Sutch offered Owen a merger with the Monster Raving Loony Party, and even spoke of relinquishing the leadership in his favour. Owen, he recalled, "gave a sad little smile and turned it down". Sutch's last coup
was at the Uxbridge by-election of 1997, when he scored 10 times the vote of Dr Alan Sked's UK Independence Party.
Sutch liked to claim credit for local radio, the introduction of votes at 18, the abolition of the 11-plus, and the Beatles' MBEs. Rather more certainly, his
candidacies led to the raising of the deposit for parliamentary
candidates from £150 to £500.
David Edward Sutch was born at Kilburn on November 12 1940; he was
not, of course, a lord. His father, a policeman, was killed in the
Blitz; his mother helped to look after Sutch until her death in 1997, and was always on
hand to pick up the pieces when his latest girlfriend left him.
After school in South Harrow, Sutch worked as a plumber until turning to
rock 'n' roll. The nickname "Lord" came from his first stage headgear, a
fur-lined crash helmet topped with bobbles to resemble a coronet; in
1968 he adopted the name by deed
poll. (Once, he said, he had tried to change his name to Mrs Thatcher, but was told it would be too confusing when he got
to the Commons.)
Sutch was the first long-haired pop star. He would emerge from a coffin with
buffalo horns on his head and a lavatory seat around his neck, set his
hair on fire, and with his leopard-skinned group The Savages launch into
frantic rock 'n' roll,
with ghoulish lyrics.
He hit the headlines in March 1961 when a
woman police sergeant sent her 17-year-old daughter to Coventry for
planning to marry him. That July he tried to elope to Gretna Green with
a 16-year-old, only to be foiled by her mother. The next week he was
fined £12 for assault after an on-stage brawl at a Dumfriesshire miners' club. On the whole, though, Sutch presented a
genial image on stage; it was in private that he was prone to
The nearest he came to a hit in Britain was the Draculoid Till the Following Night in 1962. But the act which Sutch developed was soon earning him
£1,000 a week on the road. In 1963 he spent a month's pay on a
Chevrolet. "Why be normal
and earn £10 a week?"
In the early 1970s he enjoyed a minor
success in the American charts with an album called Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends. The Friends included Noel
Redding, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon and Jeff Beck. The album was voted the
worst rock LP of all time in 1998, by record-buyers on both sides of the
Sutch's first venture at a by-election came in 1963 when he stood as
National Teenagers' candidate at Stratford-upon-Avon, a seat rendered vacant by the resignation of John Profumo. He gathered 209 votes and provoked the deputy Mayoress into walking out when he sat in the mayoral
In 1964, after a brief involvement with pirate radio, Sutch announced that he would stand against Harold Wilson at Huyton in order to fight discrimination against
long hair and to promote knighthoods for the Beatles. But his nomination
papers were rejected. Wilson, who was anxious to corner the Beatle vote himself, at first refused to shake Sutch's hand, but later relented to
the extent of giving him a cigar.
In 1966 Sutch did stand at Huyton, polling 585 votes. At the next general election,
in 1970, he appeared in the City of Westminster as a Young Ideas Party
candidate, offering to build council flats in the Buckingham Palace garden
as a boost to Prince Philip's finances.
Rejected by the voters, Sutch turned to direct action. In 1972 he was arrested
when he accompanied five naked women to Downing Street to protest
at the shortage of rock music on the BBC. Yet he was also capable of
shrewd political thrusts. "Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?"
his manifesto demanded. And many warmed to his campaign slogan:
"Vote for Insanity - You know it makes sense!"
In October 1974 Sutch contested Stafford and Stone for the GB - "Go to Blazes"
- Party. But he continued to insist that he was serious about entering Parliament,
and in 1980 drew great encouragement from the triumph of Ronald
Reagan. "You elected a B Movie actor," he told the Americans. "We can
all make good, you know."
It was not until February 1983, at Bermondsey, that he first appeared as a Monster
Raving Loony candidate; this was the by-election in which Simon Hughes, for the Liberals, trounced Labour's Peter Tatchell; Sutch, while scoring
only 97 votes, obtained as much publicity as either of them.
In the general election of that year the
Loonies, having merged with the Green Chicken Alliance, fielded 11 candidates. Sutch himself stood at Finchley against Mrs Thatcher, who proved rather less adept than other leaders
at pretending to be amused by his antics. He finished fifth out of 11 candidates,
with 235 votes.
By this time Sutch invariably finished well ahead of the other fringe candidates.
But when he stood for Southgate in 1984, he was disqualified for proposing his dog Splodge as a candidate as well as himself.
In April 1987 the Monster Raving Loony
Party won its first seat, its chairman, Alan Hope, being elected unopposed for Ashburton parish council in
For the general election that year Sutch put together a Rainbow Alliance of fringe
parties. "We are quite confident we'll get 400 to 500 seats," he said.
In fact one of the Loony candidates did attract as many as 747
votes. That autumn the party held its first conference, at Alan
Hope's pub; and two years later it even managed a split over the
On Mrs Thatcher's overthrow in 1990, Sutch wrote to The Daily Telegraph noting that he had seen off his fourth Tory leader. "Thatcherism may come and go," he declared, "but Loonyism, which we believe represents the true spirit
of the British people, will go on for ever." Nevertheless he joined the Conservative
Party in order to stand for the leadership, only to suffer the indignity
of being ruled ineligible.
In 1991 Sutch ventured into print with Life as Sutch: Autobiography of a Monster
Raving Loony. Enoch Powell, reviewing it in The Daily Telegraph, concluded that Sutch was "only another specimen of that boring old species, the
In the by-election at Islwyn, Neil Kinnock's old seat, in 1995, Sutch pulled in 506
votes, well over half the number polled by the Conservative. At this
time Barclays Bank was threatening to foreclose on a loan of
£194,000. But William Hill agreed to finance his election deposits,
and the bank re-scheduled his repayments, so that in July he was able to
record one of his best results (782 votes) at the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election.
Sutch had hoped to stand for the second time in John Major's Huntingdon constituency
at the general election of 1997, but was compelled to stand down
when his mother fell ill. Recently he was compelled to admit that, with the
deposit at £5,000, the Loony Party could not afford to stand in the Euro election.
Sutch never married, but is survived by a son, Tristan Lord Gwynne Sutch, born in 1975 to the American model Thann Rendessy.