Wednesday, September 1, 1999 Published at 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Loonies face leadership contest
Alan Hope is hoping to take up Lord Sutch's mantle
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party annual conference will go ahead later this month despite the recent death of party leader Screaming Lord Sutch.
Lord Sutch's deputy Alan Hope said it will be a "sad occasion" and will not be the same without the loonies' former leader.
The conference, which is expected to draw more than 1,000 delegates over four days, will also face the task of electing a new chief.
Mr Hope, who has been standing in as leader, is hoping to take up the mantle of Lord Sutch but he says he is facing stiff opposition from his cat, Mandu, the only other candidate in the race.
Two horse race
The fight for the loony top slot is likely to be fierce and Mr Hope has already launched a strong attack on Mandu's proposals, he told BBC News Online: "His manifesto is catastrophic.
"I think he might even win, but if his does I may have to take on a more dogmatic approach."
Plugging his own bid for the leadership, Mr Hope urged fellow loonies to give him their vote saying if he won: "I think it could be a giant step-backward for mankind."
Mr Hope has already proved his worth to the party at the ballot box, taking 238 votes in July's Eddisbury by-election.
Tribute for Sutch
The publican politician, who used his casting vote to elect himself to a second term of office as Loony party Mayor of Ashburton, said other party members had told him they wanted him to carry on as leader.
The four-day conference will be held at Mr Hope's Golden Lion Hotel in Ashburton, Devon, from September 23.
On Tuesday a suicide verdict was recorded at an inquest in north London over Lord Sutch's death.
Mr Hope said although nothing had yet been planned there would be a tribute to Lord Sutch at the conference.
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