Io Triomphe

Remembering Britain's longest serving political leader

Io Triomphe

By Quentin Langley

Dateline 17 June 1999

Picture the scene. Ancient Rome: the General, who is also a senior politician, has returned from a major military campaign abroad. He has extended the bounds of the Empire. A grateful Senate has voted him a Triumph. As he rides through the streets of Rome in a chariot, clutching ivory staffs and with gold at his head, the crowds are waving garlands and shouting “Io Triomphe”. Then, a lowly slave leans forward and whispers: “Remember you are mortal”.

There is little, in a democracy, that is more important than puncturing the pomposity of arrogant politicians. Sadly, British politics today mourns the loss of one of democracy’s greatest advocates: our longest serving party leader – Screaming Lord Sutch of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

He was the triumphal loser of 41 Parliamentary elections – not a record, Bill Boakes the Democratic Monarchist Public Safety White Resident holds that. Boakes was just as funny, though, sadly, he wasn’t joking.

The Loonies changed their party name several times, and even entered an alliance (with the Green Chickens) for the 1987 election. To me, however, the key word in the Party’s name is “Official”. As Lord (his name, he changed it by deed poll) David Sutch was always the first to remind us, there are a great many loonies in politics, but he was the only one with the courage to admit it.

Careers have foundered on unfavourable comparisons with Lord Sutch. David Owen’s Continuing SDP was wound up when their candidate finished
behind the Official Loony in the Bootle by-election. Cllr Derek Beackon – remember him? – was hurt by the same comparison. When the BNP was
cock-a-hoop at winning its only local government seat it was Lord Sutch who pointed out that the Loonies held six council seats across the country. Suddenly, fascism looked a little less frightening and a little more ridiculous.

Next time you see Blair being cheered by his supporters, the hubris shining in his eyes, imagine that Lord Sutch is standing behind him: leopard skin suit, ludicrous top hat, asking why there is only one Monopolies Commission, advocating ski slopes on the butter mountains, and whispering “remember you are mortal”.

Copyright © Quentin Langley 17 June 1999

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