While not completely stark raving bonkers William Hill’s decision to sponsor the Official Monster Raving Loony Party is certainly an eccentric decision.
One of the oldest sports bookmakers in the UK, Hills is also one of the most respected names in the industry and one that holds a certain status as one of betting’s elder statesmen. If it were a political party it would probably be the Conservative Party – the safe bet, the traditionalist middle (or slightly right) of the road bookie.
So to make such a left-field move by aligning itself with the self-anointed mad hatters of politics is a bold step. For the uninitiated the Monster Raving Loony Party were spawned from founder Screaming Lord Sutch’s National Teenage Party, which was formed in 1964 in protest against the minimum age for the vote (at that time 21). It continued in various incarnations and has always championed the banishing of income tax, which was only introduced as a temporary measure during the Napoleonic Wars.
In its 2005 general election ‘Manicfesto’ the party vowed to “put parliament on wheels” i.e. have parliament sit throughout the UK and not just in London, while the idea to give MPs expenses allowances to the poor and needy “so they can waste it instead” had a certain prescience about it.
But although these political views may have merit, their other policies like car drivers being allowed to go straight over a roundabout when there’s no traffic coming “to make driving through Milton Keynes more fun”, the introduction of a 99p coin to “save on change” and ‘Nice curves’ – the creation of a government agency to paint contour lines on to hills and colour roads the same as on maps to help people know where they are, highlights that as a genuine political party they lie on the Will Ferrell side of seriousness.
The association between Hills and the Loonies is not new and this latest partnership is undoubtedly the brainchild of William Hill Media Relations Director, Graham Sharpe, who has close ties with the party. Hills sponsored Sutch as an individual on many of his numerous attempts to stand for election to parliament – and Sharpe himself wrote Sutch’s biography, which was released in 2005.
But for the company to sponsor the party, which will now be known as the Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party, smacks slightly of a company desperate for publicity. You could understand it if it was Paddy Power – a bookie that prides itself on controversy and publicity-seeking at all costs – but not trusty old Hills.
Clearly William Hill must feel they are losing ground – and in need of repositioning themselves in a market where news-based novelty betting breeds multiple column inches if not immediate multiple bets.
Of course in general election year, all the bookies are trying to offer something different and in many respect Hills have trumped their rivals. With the general public having become increasingly disenchanted with politics and politicians on the whole due to myriad recent scandals Hills might have actually gained a good deal of kudos by siding with the crazies.
But as MPs discovered during the expenses scandal, mud sticks – and when it comes to trusting a company with your money/credit card details/personal information, can you rely on the offical backers of Monster Raving Loonies?