Written by Geoffrey Bastin
A chap called Brian Borthwick made a name for himself by first being a drummer in a band led by Screaming Lord Sutch. After Lord Sutch died in 1999 Howling Laud Hope was elected party leader of the Raving Loony Party jointly with his cat Catmando and remains so to this day. Borthwick had a falling out with Howling Laud Hope and formed his own Eccentric Party of Great Britain in 2015. It seems that his comments about Nigel Farage and criticism of Wetherspoons, whom the Raving Loonies had hoped would be a sponsor was the catalyst. The Raving Loony Party, it was said, was not in the business of upsetting people.
He even managed to acquire Lord Sutch’s Top hat and waistcoat following Sutch’s death and changed his name by deed poll to Lord Toby Jug. His campaign slogan was “don’t be a mug vote Toby Jug”. He often secured votes more than some better-known parties despite always losing his deposit. He was also accompanied on occasions when campaigning in Cambridgeshire by Lady Jezebel Fortescue Luxury Yacht when he accidentally dropped all his election leaflets in the River Ouse. Lady Jezebel lived on a houseboat and claimed to represent all floating voters.
But some of Toby Jug’s other ideas were also just as amusing.
For instance he campaigned for all local swimming pools to be emptied once a week to allow non-swimmers an opportunity to use the facilities. He believed all higher education should be taught in high rise buildings and members of parliament should be used as sleeping policemen. In addition, The Palace of Westminster should be emptied and used to house the homeless. Over the years he stood against Tony Banks in Newham, Michael Howard in Folkestone and even in 2012 for the Cambridgeshire PCC election as the joke candidate.
In the same year, 2012, he also stood in the local elections and polled more than the LibDem candidate. His final outing came as Boris Johnson was seeking a parliamentary return in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Toby Jug did consider offering Johnson the chance to lead the Eccentric Party but in the end, decided that Johnson was just too insane to be allowed membership. Also on the ballot paper was his old adversary Howling Laud Hope but alas he only polled 50 votes.
In 2014 he admitted he was an alcoholic and died in May 2019 at the age of 56.
Now you could say this was just a frivolous escapade and a diversion from what serious political activity should be about. But it is people like Brain Borthwick that not only lighten a world often too serious for its own good but makes us stand back and see the funny side of what often is human stupidity.
Take the formation of Police and Crime Commissioners as one example. What contribution do these political appointments make to everyday policing? They don’t operate alone and have a staff of several costing a vast amount that could be better spent on real policing. What was the matter with the old fashioned Police Authorities that existed and worked well before 2012? To drain a public swimming pool weekly would certainly be a waste of water but it does prompt the question what comparable facilities does the local authority provide for non-swimmers if any?
Just imagine if Jeremy Clarkson was to stand for election after his highly viewed series about Diddly Squat. Ok, so he knows how to make entertaining TV programmes along with annoying his neighbours but that is surely the essence of public debate. We don’t want everyone to conform as we admire those that are prepared to stand out in the crowd.
It takes guts to stand in any election and a vast amount of mental and physical effort, as I have found from personal experience. To stand on the stage whilst the results are being announced like some failure on Bakeoff is not a pleasant experience especially if the winner is someone whose views you have difficulty comprehending. You either win or lose as it’s not like Bargain Hunt where they only have winners and runners-up.
But above all elections are just one sign of our democracy and freedom that is essential and one that over the last sixteen months have been denied on many occasions. Apart from elections for local and Mayoral elections being deferred there have been dozens denied the right to express their opinions over a so-called pandemic for which there surely will be a day of reckoning.
It’s not just the eccentrics that have been denied for we are all victims.