Opinion: When The Loonies Came To Town Pt.2

Some Nailed coverage has been delayed due to short staffing and illness.

Are the Monster Raving Loony Party really as harmless as they seem on the surface?  Or as fun?

I want so much to just put out a news piece that it happened (26th-28th Sept), and here are some funny photos.  I can’t.

The first thing that struck me upon arriving at the George and Dragon pub where they held their speciously named party conference was the “Black Pig Border” morris dancers, in partial blackface.

Border Morris has become a deeply contentious issue due to the blackface.  There are some claims that there are no racist connotations, which usually amount to the pitching of a story that it was merely a disguise for poor people to use to go begging with.  There is absolutely no historical evidence for that claim at all.  There being no evidence means that it is astonishingly unlikely to be true, no matter how often people might like to repeat it.  Regardless of origin, blackface now signals only one thing  – racist attitudes, and it is an informed and deliberate choice to black up in the full knowledge that people will view it as racist, even if the blacked up dancer really believed in that nonsense tale of soot and beggars.   Oh but it’s harmless, people might cry.  People with the white privilege of not being the target of blackface mockery.

The second thing that struck me was that, besides the morris dancers, I REALLY had to look to see any women, or young people.  I was surrounded by older white men.

It was difficult to strike up a conversation that went anywhere with any of the attendees, but they weren’t really there to talk politics; they were there to drink beer.

Their long-standing “one in, one out” immigration policy was frequently referred to.  It was the single most important question on my mind after reading their mani(c)festo, but I didn’t have to ask about it.  I couldn’t tell if they think it a jolly wheeze, really mean it, or just don’t realise what that looks like in the current social and political climate.  By the time I left, I was convinced that all three factors were at play, but I’m not convinced that they are aware of that.

Anarcho-communication is the best way I can describe the way they interact.  Every possible note of seriousness is diverted into comedy circa 1953, complete with winks and nudges.

I asked whether they would try to deliver on party mani(c)festo promises, like their promise one year when they stood in Belper, to give everyone a single sock, if anyone got elected.  They informed me that they have a rule that if anyone gets elected they are automatically expelled from the party.  This had allegedly recently happened to one of their members.

So that’s a no then.  Is everything else moot from there on out?  Possibly, but not because of the rule.  That was overturned in 1987.  It was specifically overturned in order to keep Alan Hope as leader after he ended up elected to council.  They should probably tell the members how out of date this is, but Loonies don’t seem to understand time, or at least think it’s not relevant to being able to repeat something over and over in the hopes that it becomes funny again.

I spoke with Alan Hope, styled “Howling Laud Hope”, who has been the leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party since David “Screaming Lord” Sutch hung himself in 1999.  Alan was willing to answer some questions.

He said that the MRLP “are on everybody’s side” and exist for when voters want to vote “none of the above” in an election.  This is the common perception which they have effectively sold to the public, although this PR is effective mostly because they communicate so little and lack much of a public presence.  With no substantial information, there is little to assess.  I’m pretty sure they aren’t on the side of black people, immigrants, Remainers, or anyone aware that they live in 2019. They might not be aware of that either.

 

 

Mr. Hope listed some MRLP policies which became law:

  • Votes at 18: voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 with the Representation of the People Act in 1969, 14 years before the Loony Party was founded.
  • Scrapping the 11-plus: the 11-plus exam was phased out entirely by 1976, 7 years before the MRLP was founded.
  • All day pub opening:  Mr. Hope clarified that he didn’t mean all night, and was referring to pubs not having to close for part of the day (before 1988 pubs had to close between 3 & 6.30pm). The Licencing Act of 1988 happened 5 years after the party formed, but there is no evidence that the Loony Party had any influence on the bill.  Later licences (after 11pm) were part of reforms in 1995, so the Loony Party started calling for all-night licences in 1997.  24 hour drinking became legal in 2005, but thankfully this option is difficult to find.  There is no evidence that a party with no elected members of parliament caused the amendment or the new licencing act.
  • Official government honours for The Beatles: Paul McCartney probably didn’t get knighted in 1997 because of the MRLP campaign, if sutch (sic) a campaign happened (we can only find one reference online, on Rational Wiki)
  • Passports for pets: this one was apparently because Crufts is boring if pets can’t travel.  Passports for Pets is an EU scheme, which will cease to apply to the UK if Brexit ever happens.  No British politician had any bearing on the policy, unless elected as an MEP.  MRLP have no MEPs.

I could not tell whether Mr. Hope was deliberately messing with me or genuinely believed that the MRLP had, by campaigning for things that were already enacted in law, made them happen, before the party existed in some cases.  Either scenario is possible.  These policies are oft cited as verified influence.  I’m fairly certain that no-one rational has ever checked them out.  The party tries to present silly policies purportedly to lighten the mood of affairs they consider to be boring.  They pitch their intention as being to propose absurd policies, but not all of them are absurd (their immigration policy is very close to genuine policy of far right parties) and despite the alleged absurdity, they are awfully keen to claim responsibility for policies they thought were absurd, upon realising that they’d actually happened.

Mr. Hope was also keen to tell me about the policy to introduce a 99p coin.  Okay, that one’s funny.

Over the course of my conversations I became more and more convinced that none of them understand a thing about politics, so their protest existence is a tad undertargeted, and often accidentally lines up with reality, but not necessarily always for the good, as they don’t really have a grasp on what is funny in the 21st century either. Or what really isn’t.

Having already had the immigration policy gleefully repeated to me by numerous members, I asked about the party’s stance on Brexit.
Mr. Hope said, “In, out, shake it all about!  I’ll tell you who the best man to sort out Brexit is – Noel Edmonds!  He knows all about Deal or No Deal.”

Okay, that’s more in line with the party shtick.  Not funny, but it suits his Boss Hogg outfit.  But Mr. Hope went on to express his support of Brexit, “we should have come out at 12 noon the next day!”

And there we are.  Since I’d arrived I’d been perplexed by the political desert of the mindscapes.  Weren’t they supposed to be a protest party?  Aren’t they supposed to actually be against the other parties, and have reasons?  Reasons being things which require knowledge to be valid.  Now it aligned with other knowledge vacuums, failing to acknowledge the complexity of making sure people don’t die.

Mr. Hope is the longest serving current party leader.  In 2016 the party claimed that Mr. Hope was the longest serving in history, also claiming that the previous longest serving was the last MRLP leader David Sutch, and that a Guinness World Record would be imminent.  They have since realised that Clement Attlee led the Labour Party for 20 years and 2 months, a record which Mr. Hope claims he will have outmatched next month.  I don’t have time to go check every party leader in Britain’s history, but I think Mr. Hope should probably tot up the tally of William Gladstone, the Prime Minister who gave us universal education, who comes in at about 22 years as Leader of the Liberal Party (historical, not current).

I’d lost all hope of getting truth, sense, or an impression that anyone possesses any actual knowledge by this point, but Mr. Hope was telling me how he got accidentally elected to council because no-one stood against him.  This one is actually true. Twice.

  • 1987 – Elected unopposed to a seat on Ashburton Town Council in Devon
  • 2010 – Elected unopposed to Fleet Town Council in Hampshire

Mr. Hope claimed to have been elected Mayor of Ashburton three times.  We can only confirm that he was elected as Deputy Mayor in the late 80s, and then elected as Mayor in 1998/9 (dates recorded online vary).  These dates are so far apart that I’m inclined to believe Mr. Hope’s assertion of repeat Mayoring, although council elections of Mayor tend to be campaignless and automatic, with the most powerful voice getting the role and deputies automatically rising to Mayor the next year, with the consent of a dozen or so colleagues.  Communities have no say in who their mayor is.

I asked him how he felt about the current leadership of the UK, and he told me, “I must be in favour of Boris, because I’m Pro Rogue.” Wink wink, nudge nudge.  There’s a honking buttonhole flower missing from the equation.

Mr. Fishfinger arrived.  Mr. Fishfinger is the man who dressed up as a fishfinger and stood against Tim Farron in the last general election. Mr. Fishfinger is his real name now.  He changed it by deed poll.  During an episode of The Last Leg, “Howling Laud Hope” promised to invite “Mr. Fishfinger” to the next party conference. So this was a televised promise fulfilled.

Where do we end up?  Blackface and Brexit and immigration, oh my!  I’m sure I will be accused by some of not having a sense of humour, but honestly if this is the sense of humour people would want me to have, they are going to be permanently disappointed.  It’s the Ooh Matron “I’m so self declared wacky” humour that was supposed to die in a binfire with the Millenium Bug.  It’s not lovably eccentric.  Sure, they’re “havin’ a laugh”, but are we?

They are still a party you can vote for, so we need to treat them just like any other political party.  Nobody gets a pass because they wear a silly hat.  It’s not “oh that blackface doesn’t matter if it’s all a bit of fun.”  Some trustworthy intent is required behind every pair of pantomime pantaloons, in the event of actually getting elected, unopposed or otherwise.  Because it isn’t a vote for “none of the above”, it’s a vote for a specific person, representing a party that doesn’t give a stuff about truth, when it actually knows what that is.  And it’s not funny!

Rational Wiki describe the party thus –  “On the surface their sole aim is to add a little colour into otherwise dull affairs, though their predictable clown-like shtick usually results in candidates who are at least as dull as the serious politicians they stand against.”

That describes one part of my reaction to the badge encrusted boozers and their leader, the Boss Hogg dressed drinking buddy of Farage, who had Arron Banks pay for his attempt to oust Boris Johnson from his seat in 2010.  Collectively they come off like UKIP dressed in anything they could pin on more badges than I’ve seen since I left the 80s. There are varying political bents and stances amongst the party members and it is important to note that even high ranking Loonies differ vastly on real issues, when they aren’t nudge nudge wink winking.  But we’re living in a politically ravaged world where reality seems like satire, but here the supposed satire was too much like reality.  They just aren’t funny.

Carry On Loonies will air on Dave next summer – out of date, with some problematic content.  Location tba.

A second perspective can be read here: https://nailed.community/2019/10/17/when-the-loonies-came-to-town-pt-1/

Clare Washbrook

Current Editor-in-Chief Former Editor of BS News and S.O. Magazine Community Affiliations: Belper Goes Green, Belper's WW1 Poppies, Amber Valley Solidarity No political party memberships/affiliations.

2 thoughts on “Opinion: When The Loonies Came To Town Pt.2

  • 17th October 2019 at 3:58 pm
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    Joined up for last year’s Belper Conference because I take a child’s delight in dressing up and giving the two finger salute to mainstream politics but found after a very short time it’s basically a political potting shed club for right wingers and conspiracy nuts, though there is a small fringe that stick to the anti political anarchy approach of the Lord Sutch days but sadly greatly outnumbered by the pale and stale who want to undo 40 odd years of progress and go back to a tone deaf age where it can’t be offensive if it’s funny.

    Reply
  • 24th October 2019 at 2:00 pm
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    I think the word party sums this event up…not the word political….so drop this connection and you just see people having fun…its less serious than Halloween parties! Where scary faces based on deformity and ugliness and all kinds of colour especially black and green are paraded! Small children asking for treats …a sort of begging I suppose….and wearing masks and painted faces….! At least Morris dancers dont ask for money or sweets or threaten to scare you if you dont give! They just play music and dance and bring good cheer! In their painted faces…of many colours and designs including black. And ….there are more women than men! And different nationalities . And disabilities and orientations! This article is making a meal of a personal and narrow viewpoint! And missing the point that people and kids make fun and share it…Party time… its traditional! It’s been in our culture and everyone else’s for centuries! Just saying!

    Reply

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