A SELF-confessed political ‘lunatic’ who includes David Cameron, Michael Portillo and George Galloway among his past opponents is heading to South Shields in a bid to become the town’s next MP.
Alan ‘Howling Laud’ Hope is leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.
And the 71-year-old, from Hampshire, has thrown his hat into the ring to succeed Labour’s David Miliband.
His chances may be slim, but the seasoned campaigner’s presence in the race is bound to add a splash of colour and humour to the contest.
The party puts forward a candidate at every UK by-election.
At the 2010 General Election, Laud Hope stood against Conservative leader David Cameron in Witney, Oxfordshire, coming in sixth with 234 votes.
But his presence in South Shields has a special significance – his mother Eleanor Horton lived in the town as a child.
He said: “You could say it’s a bit of a tug on my heart coming to South Shields.
“I visited the town when I was a small child myself, and again a few years ago when I was fighting the Hartlepool by-election. I remember calling into the Wouldhave pub.
“I’m doing some research on South Shields and I’m told it’s the charity shop capital of the Loony-verse.”
In past elections, Laud Hope – who replaced the late Screaming Lord Sutch as his party’s leader in 1999 – has crossed swords with such political heavyweights as Michael Portillo and George Galloway.
Although he has never triumphed in a by-election, he has enjoyed electoral success in the past.
He was elected a town councillor for Ashburton in Devon in 1987 and was returned consecutively for 13 years, going on to be town mayor and chairman of the council.
“That just goes to prove if you do the job right, people will vote for you,” he said.
Now having moved back to his roots in Hampshire, he sits on the town council of Fleet, on the Loony Party ticket once more.
Laud Hope added: “I will be coming to South Shields 10 days before the election to campaign.
“I look forward to meeting the people of the town and asking them not to be silly and vote for me.
“I have a great admiration for the North East, not only was my mother from South Shields but my dad was from Newcastle.”