When I chatted to comedian Al Murray in this blog last year, he told me he was writing a book about medieval fools.
“Fools were very important,” he told me, “because they spoke the truth. There are examples of them giving the king bad news because no-one else dared. The fool had a licence to speak truth to the powerful.”
And now, of course, Al – and/or his comic creation The Pub Landlord – is standing for Parliament in the General Election next month. The fact Al also has a national tour to publicise is, I am sure, totally coincidental. Al Murray is no fool.
Nor, it seems, are members of the new Eccentric Party.
Yesterday afternoon, I went to see them launch their latest Parliamentary candidate in Uxbridge.
The Party leader is Lord Toby Jug.
“I was named Toby Jug,” he told me, “by our late great spiritual leader, Screaming Lord Sutch. I was in his Monster Raving Loony Party for 27 years and contested four General Elections.
“But the Monster Raving Loony Party has been pulled in different directions. I wanted it to stay true to the founder, Screaming Lord Sutch, which was getting a serious message with a bit of fun. Whereas now they’re middle aged men in fancy dress more concerned with standing in a local pub reading the jokes out of the Beano and using them as policies. But I wish them well. That’s life.”
The Eccentric Party’s policies include:
- putting super glue in lip balm to fight obesity
- a 10% phone bill discount for people who stutter
The Monster Raving Loony Party says: “the reason for Toby’s dismissal from the party is his continued personal attacks on members of the party and on other groups while claiming to be representing the Loony Party.”
Yesterday, Lord Toby Jug told me: “I left because they didn’t like my stance – as told to national newspapers – on Nigel Farage and UKIP. I said UKIP claimed to be fruitcakes, loonies and crackpots but that’s our area. They tried to nick our Holy Grail of loonies. Another reason I left was because I met Nigel Farage and some of his sick-you-fonts and I thought they were closet racists and decided that should be put in the public domain. UKIP are far too eccentric, far too potty. Extremists.”
“You’re standing for Huntingdon,” I said. “Was that (former Prime Minister) John Major’s constituency?”
“It was, yes. Now it’s Jonathan Djanogly’s, a Conservative, a very wealthy man. They live in a different world. The only Tory worth voting for is a lava-tory. These people who live in mansions are nothing to do with the ordinary people.”
“You consider yourself a normal person?” I asked.
“Compared to them, yes,” said Lord Toby Jug. I’ve met many politicians over the years and they’ve asked me to join their so-called sensible parties and I’ve said No because I would lose my whole identity as an independent free thinker and eccentric.”
“Why,” I asked, “did they want you in their party?”
“They wanted some of the publicity I got.”
So why is Chris Dowling standing – the man the Eccentric Party were launching yesterday – the Eccentric Party candidate for Uxbridge & South Ruislip?
“I’m standing, basically,” he told me, “because I’m a musician, a singer-songwriter. I’m doing this for publicity. With my £500 deposit, I’m going to get more publicity than you can shake a stick at – just by standing against Boris Johnson. Also, I stood against Boris as a Monster Raving Loony Party candidate for Mayor of London. I played guitar with Screaming Lord Sutch for ten years. Now the Chairman of the Monster Raving Loony party is standing in this constituency so I’ve jumped ship and gone with Lord Toby Jug.”
“Have you any policies?” I asked.
“When I stood last time,” Chris told me, “in Barking, against Nick Griffin of the BNP – I stood with no policies at all. This election, I’m standing on one policy: the virtual Parliament.”
“Eh?” I asked.
“MPs have robbed us for so many years now with their expenses and all that. We should leave them all in their own constituencies and do it all on Skype and online. They can have video conferencing and that would negate all their expenses. Politicians are always saying they want us to make cuts, so let’s start with them.
“I mean it when I talk about a virtual Parliament. It would save millions of pounds each year to have them in their own constituencies – where they should be anyway – instead of coming down to Westminster and sponging off of us.
“Almost everything is already online now. Why not have government online as well? You watch. In a few years time, what we’re talking about now is not going to be that far-fetched. We phoned up a video-conferencing firm and asked how much it would cost. There are 650 MPs and we could do it for less than £1,200 a year each. Online in their constituencies, debating everything. They don’t need transport to London and hotel expenses every week.”
“Automatically,” I told him, “I am thinking that’s a ridiculous idea but, of course, in 50 years time, there may not be office blocks – most people may work from home.”
“We’re always ahead,” said Lord Toby Jug.
“I was a Raving Loony for years,” said Chris, “and there are already five Raving Loony policies that have come to fruition:
- Passports for pets
- All-day pub-opening
- Scrapping the 11-plus
- Votes for 18-year-olds (it was 21 at the time)
- Commercial radio
I asked: “Doesn’t commercial radio pre-date the Monster Raving Loony Party?”
“No,” said Chris. “The Monster Raving Loony Party has been going 50 years.”
“Since 1963,” said Lord Toby. “It started as the National Teenage Party.”
“Some of the policies,” I said, “don’t sound that loony.”
“The policies ain’t that loony,” said Chris.
“We want more money spent on mental health,” said Lord Toby Jug.
“To have less of it?” I asked.
Lord Toby Jug ignored me. “That’s a very serious subject,” he said. “The same with addiction.”
“Diction?” I asked, genuinely surprised.
“Addiction,” said Lord Toby Jug.
“Even though this is still the greatest democracy in the world,” said Chris, “the political system in this country is outdated and it needs to be revamped. I’m gonna win by a landslide majority here.”
“Against Boris?” I asked.
“Yeah. He’s a bigger loony than I am.”
“I do wonder,” I said, “who is going to be next Mayor of London. Because people voted-in Red Ken, who was a bit eccentric, then Boris, who is more eccentric. They seem to vote for interesting people to be Mayor of London, not for parties.”
“Sooner or later,” said Chris, “Boris Johnson will be the Prime Minister of this country.”
“I think so too,” I agreed.
“Everything I’ve seen about Boris Johnson,” said Chris, “he’s just seemed a buffoon and I quite like that about him.”
“Well,” I said, “he’s a buffoon who, at one time, was simultaneously editing The Spectator AND being an apparently quite good constituency MP AND being a TV personality on things like Have I Got News For You. He’s no fool.
“Red Ken – eccentric – Boris Johnson – eccentric – Maybe you should not be standing for Parliament, but as Mayor of London. “
“Well,” said Chris. “I went for that last time, but there’s so much red tape involved and you have to put up £10,000, because they don’t want the likes of me and you there.”
“£10,000?” I said, shocked. “It’s only £500 to stand as an MP! But you’re quite serious about the politics…”
“Not really,” said Chris.
“Well,” I added, “in an anarchist way.”
“Yes, in an anarchist way,” agreed Chris.
“It’s not a case of winning,” said Lord Toby Jug. “It’s a case of standing and putting your policies forward. “
“But a lot of people won’t do it,” said Chris. “It’s like they’re sofa referees: you watch the football and you shout at the TV screen but you don’t play. At least we stand up and do it.
“Russell Brand says Don’t vote,” I prompted.
“Yeah,” said Chris. “But Russell Brand is a prick.”
Lord Toby Jug added: “He is to politics what King Herod was to babysitters. Politicians are just actors to get publicity for themselves and will do absolutely anything and lie about anything to get your vote. We ain’t like that. We are an honest political party. Peace and love through the medium of humour. There’s enough hatred in the world. We’re very lucky to live in this democracy.”
“We are,” agreed Lord Toby Jug.
The Eccentric Party are recording a campaign song this Friday – Eccentric Guitars, written by Joshua Francis, their Minister for Ovine Theology. It will be released on iTunes and YouTube, probably next week.
They are also having a fund-raising party this Saturday at their party HQ – the Crown & Treaty pub in Uxbridge.
I have a suspicion that the Eccentric Party knows how to party.
And, lest we forget, to quote Al Murray: “The fool (has) a licence to speak truth to the powerful.”