The story of Alan ‘Howling Laud’ Hope, his leadership of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party and why you should vote for them
There he sat, in his bright yellow suit and an obnoxiously large matching top hat. His jacket was full of badges and he was surrounded by books with his picture on the front. Britain’s longest-serving political leader.
80-year-old Alan ‘Howling Laud’ Hope, the leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. Having just overtaken Clement Atlee as longest-serving leader in UK political history, he’s been running the party for over 22 years.
“I’ve stood in nine general elections, which is more than anyone else.”
Forming the party
The Monster Raving Loony Party was formed by Mr Hope and Screaming lord Sutch who was leader until he passed away in 1999.
They met at a rock and roll club in the late 1950s. “When I left school, we were the first group of 18-year-olds not to get called up to the army. I’m two days older than Paul McCartney, a year older than Mick Jagger and a year younger than Cliff Richard. Think about how much music we would’ve missed out on if we’d all been called up. That’s why the 60s were so good, we were the first to live our lives.”
Mr Hope was a musician in his early years, he said: “Some of us made it, some of us didn’t and here I am dressed in a funky suit and a big hat, so you can see how it went for me.”
“In the mid-60s, Lord Sutch formed the National Teenage Party, because back then, you could be given a gun to go and shoot somebody in another country aged 18 but you couldn’t vote, he thought that was wrong, he highlighted that and eventually that went through parliament.
“That’s where it all started.”
“In 1982, I bought a Hotel in Devon, the Golden Lion hotel in Ashburton. He (Lord Sutch) was playing in Plymouth one day, I saw the advert and I rang him up and he came and saw me on the way. That was June the 16th 1982, I remember that because it was my birthday.
“That’s when we formed the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.”
The Party was formed as an option to those who don’t vote: “The biggest political party in this country isn’t Labour or the Tories, it’s those who don’t vote at all.
“At the time we’d thought, if the non-voters all vote for us, we would win. We’re now the party of the older generation, the teenagers will vote for Labour, Conservative and the Liberals because they’ve not been here before. Our lot, we’ve seen it all, heard it all and have no reason to believe what any of the major parties say. We’ve been here too many times.
“We need a change, and the only way we are going to get change is to sit up and think where an earth are we going wrong?”
The Loony Party have a number of wacky policies that they pride themselves on including clearing the National Debt by putting it on their credit card, painting half of grey squirrels red to increase the population of red squirrels and marking all puddles deeper than three inches with a yellow rubber duck.
They also have a rule whereby any member that gets elected is immediately evicted. Lord Hope said: “We have a rule in our party that is if you win a seat, you’ve had too many votes and you clearly weren’t being loony enough.
“However, I was elected to be Mayor of Ashburton in Devon for 13 years. Many of my party members told me that I would have to resign but the thing is I didn’t get any votes, the post was unopposed, so I got away with one there. Realistically though, if we did win a seat I could just change the rules, it’s a dictatorship after all, to hell with it I made the rules in the first place!”
Alan Hope became leader of the party in 1999 when its former leader and co-founder Screaming Lord Sutch died. He said: “Really when it was Screaming Lord Sutch, it was just his fan club, It’s a bit more than that now, he’s still our spiritual leader of course. We have a conference every year just like the other parties, he’s always mentioned as our leader. He’s there with us as a ghost effectively.
As Mr Hope has been leader for over 22 years, retiring has certainly crossed his mind. He said: “I hope nothing changes when I finish, 5 years ago I appointed five deputy leaders, so one of them will carry on, that’s why I made five because surely one of them will want to do it.
“I want to make sure there’s no chance that they will just pack it all up when I finish.
“It’s something that I co-founded and built for over 40 years, when you commit to something that much you want to make sure it can carry on for years and years.”
The party has members all over the world and ‘Howling Laud’ Hope had clearly lost track: “I’ve no idea how many members we have, normally I say between 167,000 and 221,000, I cant be sure because they are in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Argentina and so many more. That’s without even considering here in Britain.
“I think its our uniqueness that draws people in, if they watch an election and see us in a funny outfit next to a load of boring wannabe MPs, why shouldn’t they vote for us.”
Hope was the first member of the party to be elected to public office when he was elected unopposed to a seat on Ashburton Town Council in Devon in 1987. He then became the Mayor of Ashburton in 1998: “I think becoming town Mayor is my biggest achievement, but there are so many things I’m proud of that we have done.
“For example our campaign for all-day pub openings, that’s an obvious win both in the fact that we were listened to but also because we can spend longer in the pub.
“Our current campaign that we’re pushing for is the creation of a 99p coin. It’s a wonderful idea considering everything is always however many pounds and 99 pence.”
Hiding from the political spectrum
Politically, the loony party aims to distract from the main crowd, however they do have a few strong political beliefs themselves. It is a very patriotic and royalist party, they pride themselves on everything British. They like the Royals, British traditions and pints from Wetherspoons so as you can imagine many of their leading members including ‘Howling Laud’ Hope, voted for Brexit.
However, Alan denied that they lean either left or right wing, he said: “Listen. We aren’t right-wing or left-wing, we are the centre forwards, we are the goalkeepers trying to save you all from the idiots that get elected every year.
“Ultimately though, we are here to make people happy, to make people smile and maybe win a seat one day so we can actually change things. Between us, we take things very seriously and we know we can change things, if people voted for us, we could do a lot of change for this country.
“The Conservatives Labour and the Liberals may still be in government but they’d have to watch out if they thought we were behind them wouldn’t they?
“We are here for our country.”
At this point it was very clear that he’d been a political leader for so long. But he did say there is one more thing that he wants to achieve: “I want to win a seat or win the lottery.”
After this he simply said: “I’ve got one more thing to add”, and eagerly pulled out a copy of his book saying “make sure you include adverts for this everywhere, especially considering the fact that I want a holiday this year.”
To this day, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party have fought in ten General Elections from 1983 to 2019 amassing a total of 58,894 votes.They also currently have seven parish and town councillors.
There has been a history of weird and wacky candidates in UK politics. From Lord Buckethead, Mr Fish Finger, and Count Binface to over 40 years of Official Monster Raving Loony candidates. None of these have ever made it to the promised land that is the House of Commons but as ‘Howling Laud’ Hope said “Why shouldn’t they vote for us.”
As things stand, the next General Election will be in December 2024 with Sunak’s Conservatives against Starmer’s Labour Party and we’ll all switch on our TVs to spend all night listening to Huw Edwards, Tom Bradby and Professor John Curtice. When we do just make sure you keep an eye out for brightly coloured suits, oversized hats and funny costumes stood amongst a line of parliamentary candidates and just remember that there’s a chance to start painting squirrels red if you vote for a certain Monster Raving Loony Party.