David Sutch, who brought a chuckle to British politics as leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party with the slogan: "Vote for insanity -- you know it makes sense," has died at age 58.
He was found hanged June 16 at his northwest London home. His partner, Yvonne Elwood, who found Mr. Sutch's body, said that although he had fought a long battle with depression, he seemed happy in the days leading up to his death.
A friend said Mr. Sutch was taking antidepressants, and Scotland Yard said it was treating the death as suspicious.
Known as Screaming Lord Sutch, he was Britain's longest-serving party leader, although he was never elected despite having stood for Parliament more than 40 times. He didn't seem to care. He was unique in his durability and has a place in the Guinness Book of Records for standing for Parliament more times than any other hopeful. Regularly, he stood against the incumbent prime minister in general elections and brightened up numerous by-elections.
Once he said he would rather have 1,000 laughs than 1,000 votes. One of his party members, Alan Hope, was once elected mayor in a town in southwest England.
Rivals from across the political spectrum paid tribute Thursday to the veteran election campaigner who with his top hat and gold lame suit blared his party's madcap policies through a rusty loud speaker from one corner of the land to the other.
"Screaming Lord Sutch will be much missed. For many years, he made a unique contribution to British politics," said a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Our elections will never be quite the same without him."
Hope said Mr. Sutch had been in good spirits when he spoke to him on the phone 10 days ago. But, Hope added, "he was taking lots and lots of pills -- Prozac, I don't know what."
Mr. Sutch, who legally changed his name to add the "Lord," founded the Monster Raving Loony Party in 1963 and first ran for Parliament in 1964.
He wanted to know why there was only one Monopolies Commission. He wanted to turn the metaphoric "butter mountain" created by agricultural subsidies in Europe into a ski slope.
He once proposed that joggers and the unemployed should be compelled to power a gigantic treadmill to generate cheap electricity, and on one occasion he unsuccessfully tried to get his dog Splodge nominated at a London election. He called for a ban on January and February to make winter shorter.
His polices included wanting fish bred in a European wine lake so they could be caught ready-pickled, giving pensioners heated toilet seats and extending the Channel Tunnel to Guernsey and Switzerland to give Britain tax haven status.
He campaigned in the recent polls for Scotland's first Parliament, wooing voters with his idea to turn Loch Ness into a theme park called Loonyland and to put the new Parliament on wheels so it could travel from city to city.
Mr. Sutch and his followers campaigned in a style that was irritating to earnest candidates but delightful to the massed ranks of Britain's voting population.
And at least one of his policies -- all-day pubs -- later became a reality.
Attempts to price him and other "nonsense" candidates out of the election scene -- by increasing the registration fee from $240 to $800 -- backfired as increasingly more zany figures, clowns and self-described clueless ones joined the ranks of the hopefuls since the deposit rose in 1985.
In 1990, a Russian television company filmed the Loonies' annual conference while producing a documentary on differences between English and Soviet humor.
Russian TV viewers saw the arrival of a balloon (fueled by Conservative and Labor party hot air) in which Loony supporters ate pie-in-the-sky.
Harry Greenway, a former member of Parliament for the Conservative Party, said Mr. Sutch brought laughter and good cheer to campaigns
"A lot of people complained about the so-called lunatic fringe of politics and criticized people like David Sutch," he said. "But he was the man who brought gaiety to politics and who pricked the pomposity of politicians."
Mr. Sutch was brought up as an only child by his mother, Nancy, in London after his father, a policeman, was killed during World War II by a bomb. She died at the age of 80 on the eve of polling day in May 1997.
During the 1960s, Mr. Sutch was a rock singer, and until recently performed up to 250 concerts a year throughout Europe.
He never married but leaves a 24-year-old son, Tristan, from his relationship with American model Thann Quantrill, who once helped him contest an election by riding naked through a town on horseback.
CAPTION: Screaming Lord Sutch, a former rock singer, stood for Parliament more than 40 times but was never elected.