In 1991, embarking on a journey with the inaugural elected representative from Britain’s eccentric and environmentally conscious Raving Loony Green Giant Party.

What was the reaction in Sidmouth to 40-year-old Stuart Hughes, who was dressed in a silver top hat and harlequin jacket?

In 1991, the Observer accompanied the UK’s first Raving Loony Green Giant Party councilor on a poetic journey through Sidmouth. The town was described as “almost comatose,” with retirees dozing in rented deckchairs. Their skin was described as “papery” and “broiling” in the summer sun, giving their faces the same vivid red as grilled tomatoes in the cooked breakfasts served at local hotels.

All of a sudden, the scene was disrupted by the arrival of 40-year-old Stuart Hughes, wearing his “wrecked” red, white, and blue plastic sandals, a “tacky silver top hat,” and a harlequin jacket. He consoled a woman who had been defecated on by a seagull, jokingly telling her that it was a “Tory gull.”

Having been newly elected to the East Devon District Council (EDDC), Hughes had an interesting mix in his manifesto. It included both extreme silliness, such as traffic light buttons for hedgehogs and neutering shopping trolleys, as well as “drab suburban common sense,” like providing free bus passes for pensioners and increasing street cleaning. Hughes, who was described as a “superannuated raver” from the 60s, cleverly turned his opposition to the Poll Tax into a vaudeville routine. He attempted to pay with Monopoly money and even brought a wheelbarrow of junk to pay the tax, which gained him significant media attention. He noted, “The moment you do something stupid, they’re all over you.”

Despite his outward bravado, Hughes was anxious about his first council meeting. He had promised not to wear his “loony gear.” He was worried about how his fellow councillors in the “Blue Kremlin” of EDDC would react because “The Tories who run the place do not appreciate being teased.” Hughes became subdued and dejected when his nomination to the publicity and promotions committee was rejected, under the intimidating gaze of council leader Ted Pinney. The writer reflected, “I began to feel very sorry for him and to think again about Sidmouth and the brutal antagonisms behind its privet hedges and lace curtains.”

However, the next morning, Hughes was back at it. He antagonized the croquet club, played with shop dummies, and pretended to walk on water. Clearly, you couldn’t keep a loony down for long.

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