25 May 2016

Brian Lee - The Liberal Song/ Jo Grimond - A Message From...

Label: YL (Young Liberals)
Year of Release: 1964

It's easy to look at the Liberal Democrats present eight seats in the House of Commons and laugh/ cry/ raise your eyebrows (delete according to your particular political stance) but their forerunners the Liberal Party suffered far greater tumbles in political society. They went from holding the reigns of political power regularly in the early part of the twentieth century to holding a mere six seats in the House for most of the fifties, thanks to the growing success of the Labour Party. The mid-sixties saw a very slight resurgence in their popularity as they found themselves "enjoying" nine seats again. Dig those heady heights, Daddio.

It's this slightly short-lived period of growing Liberal votes that this rather bizarre single stems from. Targeted at the Young Liberals in their ranks, it's a gentle beat disc with a tippy-tappy backing rhythm and a twangy guitar, espousing the virtues of being a Liberal. "The Socialists will try to nationalise us/ That's not a democratic thing to do!" warns Brian Lee in warm, fruity tones, presumably with one finger wagging. "It's time to hear the Liberal point of view" he adds. Throughout, he sounds slightly like Vic Reeves delivering "Empty Kennel", a song about a dog that tragically drowned in a swimming pool. This surely isn't the tone the Party was going for?

Like most political party attempts to get down with the kids, it's downright embarrassing. Vague in its messaging - the Liberals did actually have some unique policies at this point, so it's surprising some weren't brought to the forefront of the song - Catholic youth club campfire strum-a-long in its style, and rather too hesitant in its delivery, by the time it's over it's hard to understand what the Liberals were for or why you should vote or get involved with them, apart from the fact that they feel Tories are "full of hard luck stories" and Labour are dangerous Socialists. 

Still, never mind, because the then Liberal leader Jo Grimond was on the flip side to help us along with a rousing speech, if he can manage to clear his throat and avoid the words "um" and "er" for more than one minute, that is. Though it is, of course... *cough*... worth knowing that the Liberals have a... *cough*... um, er, unique worldview quite apart from the Conservatives and the, er, Labour chappies, and are... *cough*... the only main party to be against the Hydrogen Bomb. Good God, it's painful to listen to, and makes nine seats feel generous. 

The Liberal Party formed an alliance with the SDP (a short-lived but briefly very popular party of breakaway Labour moderates, who require explanations in parenthesis for the benefit of younger and overseas readers these days) in 1981, and attracted 25% of the national vote, and the parties eventually merged in 1989 to create the Liberal Democrats, effectively ending the old Liberal Party as you and I know it. Except, of course, it didn't really... some members refused to join the new unit, and a Classic Coke version of the old-fashioned Liberal Party limps on in some constituencies, presently having very few elected councillors in its ranks and no MPs. Its presence at the bottom of the BBC Elections board at election time seems increasingly baffling, and serious political miracles aside, the old dog is surely due to slip under the table to expire soon (I checked their website in the name of research, only to find that the news section hadn't been updated in almost a year). 

The vast majority of the Liberal Party's values remain within the Liberal Democrat party, though the Liberal Party is keen to emphasise that the Lib Dems have become "too right wing" in recent years. Perhaps because of this, their identity problems remain acute - to many local people at election time, the Lib Dems have become a quaint and ill-defined party once more, opportunistically selling themselves as the best placed party to replace either Labour or the Conservatives in whatever constituency they're in, and doing so with misleading bar charts. Surely a jaunty novelty single entitled "Only The Lib Dems Can Beat Them Here!" is on its way soon? 


Anonymous said...

Superb !!

Another unknown song of the early sixties, the only single by Brian Lee

Many thanks


Arthur Nibble said...

Confused as to why the record labels' colour is Labour red and not Liberal amber. Not fully thought out, that bit, was it?

23 Daves said...

That's probably just my scanner! It does look closer to orange in the real world. 45cat have a bit more of an orangey picture of it: http://www.45cat.com/record/45lr1

I realise I've been really scathing about this one, which is something I generally try to avoid. I hope nobody from Brian Lee's family (or indeed Brian Lee himself) sees this and thinks "That was needlessly harsh. It was only a daft political single for the Young Liberals".