Do you agree with Kirsty and Tim about banning Delilah?

Kirsty Williams and Tim Farron have wandered into the controversy over the singing of the Tom Jones song Delilah by Welsh rugby fans.

Labour MP Chris Bryant thinks it shouldn’t be sung on account of its account of the murder of its eponymous heroine.

I had never really paid too much attention to the lyrics before but they are certainly pretty chilling. Having said that, if you banned every reference in literature or music to violence, and particularly violence against women, there wouldn’t be much left. You certainly wouldn’t be able to study Othello for your GCSEs or A Level, for example.

It does seem strange to have a song that’s basically about a man hunting down and murdering a woman as a rugby anthem, especially when it’s sung with such ceremony by choirs and Tom Jones himself. I’d love to know how that happened. I’m told that it’s been used since at least the early 1970s.

Kirsty and Tim took a more pragmatic approach to the issue than Chris Bryant. Kirsty said, according to Wales Online that a ban wasn’t realistic, but that more could and should be done to tackle the correlation between domestic violence and certain sports:

Domestic violence is a very serious issue and as a society we need to be more aware of the situation both men and women find themselves in… We need to do more to raise awareness so that people can speak out, find support and help when they need it.

Is it realistic to say to the crowd in the Principality Stadium they can’t sing Delilah? I think it’s highly unrealistic to have a ban on the crowd singing that song.

I think what’s more important during rugby internationals is to recognise that actually that often represents a spike in incidents of domestic violence and we should be using the opportunity of having that big crowd of people together not to lecture them about what songs they sing but actually maybe to use that opportunity to get information out about domestic violence, how people can get support, how people can support friends, colleagues, neighbours that they’re worried about.

I think we should focus on trying to educate people and supporting those people who are victims of domestic violence rather than trying to use our political energies to ban a song which I think it would be very difficult to do.

Tim Farron also expressed his view:

We also need to remember that an awful lot of the historic songs we sing have imperialist overtones, they have militaristic overtones, and so whilst its important to address these things and to assess them I think it’s also important not to be overly forensic about things that clearly don’t bear the meaning [that] they do now.”

He argued it was right to think carefully about the language we use, saying: “I’m not somebody who is sniffy about political correctness because it’s important to use language that doesn’t offend, that doesn’t encourage stereotypes or which celebrates things which are significantly less than pleasant.”

I reckon that Kirsty’s and Tim’s way of dealing with it is more likely to be effective. Ban it and the conversation becomes all about the ban, but maybe the debate can be used as an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues around domestic violence.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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42 Comments

  • Thomas Shakespeare 8th Feb '16 - 6:09pm

    I agree with Tim. People sing Delilah at rugby matches because it’s a good welsh song. It’s not because they condone domestic violence. Like Caron I bet many people don’t know about the theme of the song. Starting to ban the singing of certain songs in public is a very slippery slope. Addressing domestic violence is clearly incredibly important, but banning the singing of this song at Welsh rugby matches won’t help. AsKirsty points out it also, importantly, won’t work.

  • In a free country you don’t ban art.

    It’s a great song. So was bohemian rhapsody. Art often is emotional, and controversial. An MP demanding that art be banned, utterly disgusting a complete disgrace.

  • PS. In really disappointed that Tim didn’t do more to firmly nail the liberal colours to the mast and utterly ridicule the man for even suggesting a ban and say how appalling there mere suggestion was. If the lib dems don’t take a firm stand against nonsense like this there is really no need for them.

  • Ban the national anthem because the sixth verse talks about crushing the Scots

    Only the rebellious Scots.

    It’s about the Jacobite invasion, when, remember, there were more loyal lowland Scots than rebellious highland ones, and the loyalists were eager to fight alongside their English brothers against someone they too saw as a pretender who wanted to re-impose Catholicism on them, and so those loyal Scots would have been only too happy to belt out a verse about crushing their rebellious countrymen.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 8th Feb '16 - 8:24pm

    @Mark

    Shocked that there are moves to ban ‘Rape of the Sabine Women’ as I’ve just studied it at school. Banning art is idiotic and authoritarian. You don’t have to agree with a song or a poem’s message, but banning it isn’t the solution. People don’t read poems about rape because they agree with it (Ovid doesn’t condone it). Reporting an act and depicting it artistically, especially in verse or in song, is often a way of leaving others to question whether it’s right.

    These proposals from Labour (not exclusively them, I know) are ridiculously patronising and equally worrying.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Feb '16 - 8:29pm

    It’s probably impossible to ban this song even if parliament voted so. It would become a symbol of defiance against oppressive government. People would drive around with it blasting out of their cars to send a message to the government that the people are sovereign.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 8th Feb '16 - 8:43pm

    Exactly Eddie. Spot on.

  • Well I blame Mary Jane for the death of an anonymous Halifax chorister on Ilkla Moor. The daft soft headed feller went a’courtin her without his hat. Should be banned at Headingley when Yorkshire automatically win the title again next September.

    Replace it with, ‘Hail smiling morn’, I say.

  • @petermartin2001

    It doesn’t matter what the lyrics are, you don’t get to tell artists what they can and can’t write and people what they can and can’t enjoy and sing.

    Some on the so called liberal left are actually some of the most controlling bullies who want to regulate everyone else’s language and thoughts. Like those feminists who set off a fire alarm because they didn’t like another group having a meeting and wanted to disrupt it and stop others having the same freedom they have. Because the other group didn’t have the ‘correct’ ideas.

    It’s ironic, only UKIP believe in free speech now and much of the so called liberal left is anti free speech.

    I predict the lib dems will get crushed in the Scottish elections, if even some of them consider banning songs ok, there is no space left for a so called liberal party that abandons liberalism. That would be like the SNP abandoning nationalism, no reason to exist.

  • Can anyone actually find a quote from Chris Bryant saying it should be banned?
    All I can find is
    “I am not saying that singing Delilah incites violence. Of course not. There is no evidence for that. Nor am I saying it should be banned from the airwaves or that fans should be banned from singing it.”

  • Allan Heron 8th Feb '16 - 10:16pm

    It’s been sung by Welsh rugby fans for years.

    Frankly, it seems like there was nothing better to report so this was used to stir the pot.

    In any event, the Alex Harvey version is so much better than Tom Jones.

  • AndrewR 8th Feb ’16 – 10:08pm…………………..Can anyone actually find a quote from Chris Bryant saying it should be banned?

    I couldn’t. What I found was…”Delilah comes from an era when the police would refuse even to attend “a domestic”. So I just hope that if people choose to sing it they give a thought to the victims back at home……………Lots of people are indignant that I have raised this. I just hope they get equally indignant about domestic violence.”

    Difficult to fault those words.

  • The national anthem should not be banned. Quietly disposed of yes, for all sorts of good political reasons – but not simply because it represents literary or musical bad taste.

  • It should be banned, not for it’s biographical content but purely because it’s a truly dreadful song.

  • llr Mark Wright 9th Feb ’16 – 12:31am………[email protected] and expats: this link contains more of the interview:……………Bryant clearly says: “There are thousands of other songs we could sing.”………….It’s perfectly obvious that when someone says “sing other songs” they mean “don’t sing that song”. He suggests ‘Cwm Rhondda’……..

    Again where does he advocate BANNING the song?

    I might well suggest that there are other routes for rush-hour drivers rather than down my quiet street.. but that is a long way from ‘banning’ them……

  • Having read all the comments it appears to me that politicos and religious fundamentalists have a lot in common.

    This everything is politically incorrect should we worry about it nonsense is just like the religious fundamentalists who see evil and satan everywhere they look. Or like the feminists seeing everything through their problematic glasses.

    The lib dems should be looking to deal with this by taking the seat, not by becoming like the current MP. I’d love to see someone like lembit become the next MP.

  • If the bible was a DVD it would be an 18 certificate and you wouldn’t let kids watch it!

  • Delilah is a murder ballad in the tradition of murder ballads with which our musical history is rife. Banning it would be illiberal as well as idiotic. For more go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_ballad

  • From the school of ‘thought’ that brought you #Rhodesmustfall.

  • I am a survivor of domestic violence; Delilah is my speciality on karaoke. Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads is one of my favourite albums.

    I don’t not think that songs about nasty things should be banned. Nor do I think horror films should be banned, nor Agatha Christie novels, nor games where you shoot people. This is mostly because I am a liberal, but more, because I have the wit to understand that the depiction of something horrible is not the condoning of it; something the people calling for this ban seem to lack.

  • Rsf7

    “Some on the so called liberal left are actually some of the most controlling bullies who want to regulate everyone else’s language and thoughts”

    Ummm, I think you may be thinking about the authoritarian left political ideas are not best mapped on a straight line, there is liberal and authoritarian left and anyone advocating banning things moving puts them more and more in to the authoritarian.

    Some people advocate some limited banning (hate speech etc.) which I personally disagree with but can see how they reconcile that (even if I think they are wrong).

    As for UKIP believing in free speech, you may be able to find one or two who do but I think you would find most would easily fall in to the trap that the last labour government did in restricting free speech due to a silly game of cat and mouse with the Numpty of Welling.

    All parties have too little passion for free speech but I see more respect for it in the LibDems than any other.

  • @psi

    I’m talking about the sort of people who would seek to no platform the far right to deny them free speech for not having the correct opinions. Or the kind of people that would publicly disinvite Richard Dawkins from a debate for sharing a hilarious YouTube clip that offended them.

    What the typical lib dem member is like depends on where you are in the country I guess, but most of the ones I’ve met are of the authoritarian tell everyone how to think type. Come may I won’t miss them. I’m actually considering voting UKIP.

  • nvelope2003 9th Feb '16 - 1:15pm

    Rsf7; I thought you were going to vote Green last week – what will it be next week ? I do agree with most of the rest of your post.

  • Jennie,
    I agree on most of that, but on games where people shoot people,do you think , as with the level of violence allowed in movies, there should be a greater degree of monitoring, research and certification?I believe the correlation between media depiction of gratuitous violence and boys upbringing is getting worrying .Especially porn that shows hard core violence and submission in the very extreme .

    Two of my greatest heroes in the media , Richard Attenborough and Bryan Forbes, themselves fell foul of the British Board Of Film Classification for even the mildest of content re sex and language , in one or two of the films they made , like ” The L shaped Room ,” but they used to also speak against “the pornogrophy of violence “, for they believed , as I do ,that it can go too far , and is a worry in a way sex depiction , without violence , is not .

    As a Liberal , I do not consider myself what some call a libertarian ,not on some aspects of policy , keen as I am on utilising John Stuart Mill and his Harm Principle, therefore I support the ban as it is , of smoking in enclosed public spaces and on fox hunting .

    Similarly , as a Liberal I both would not ban or condemn ” Delilah”, yet cannot fathom why its an anthem .I prefer “Whats new pussycat “, amongst Tom Jones songs , probably even more politicly incorrect to a few !

  • Has anyone ever actually bothered reading the lyrics to the French National anthem. now that’s blood thirsty. My main objection to ours is that essential one long toadying embarrassment about whoever happened to have inherited the throne at any particular time. Delilah is just a famous song sung by a famous Welshman and that’s why it gets sung.
    Paul’
    The idea that Ring a Ring a Roses is about the plague is heavily disputed by folk historians. According to most its a simple children’s rhyme with a lot of different variants and is mainly a chance for kids fall to the ground in a theatrical manner.

  • @nvelope2003

    The only time you can vote green where I live is on the vote for the regional list in a Scottish election. I’ve never seen the green on any other ballot.

    Believe it or not, I like the greens on economic ideas but on others ideas I like ukip. If UKIP stand on the constituency I’d vote for them, because the greens never do.

    I believe UKIP stand for democracy and fundamental freedoms such as free speech and freedom of expression. I even heard farage believes in legalising drug use. But it’s true, UKIP don’t believe in providing proper public services which I dislike. So which is more important?

    the lib dems actually have a good economic policy in Scotland, they want to invest extra in schools and have said how they’ll pay for it but I don’t trust them. I don’t believe they’d be out advocating basic rate income tax rises in the south west, which is why I believe you can’t be sure what you’ll get if you get lib dems in power and therefore shouldn’t vote for them. Loads of people realised that after 2010 when they thought the voted to keep the tories out and get free education and got higher fees and what was essentially a conservative government, all enabled by those the elected to do the opposite.

  • I’m not in favour of banning it, even on the grounds of good taste (I think it’s an atrocious song), but just think for a moment about the role of song in reinforcing social values. Bono prefaces “Bloody Sunday” with, “This is not a rebel song…” because he knows the power of song in reinforcing sectarian values – “….and I’m off to join the IRA, to the rattle of a Thompson gun”. I don’t like rugby and don’t know anything about it, so it may no longer be the case that it’s an excuse for getting drunk, male bonding and singing mysoginistic songs. Did that ever play a part in men behaving like Andy Capp on a Saturday night? We should be asking, which I think Chris Bryant was, why it is that domestic violence is still so common despite the changes in the social relationships between men and women in the last fifty years. I grew up in the fifties when sexism was blatantly institutionalised: what is the excuse today?

  • Rsf7

    “I’m talking about the sort of people who would seek to no platform the far right to deny them free speech”

    I am noticing increasing awareness of how ridiculous this position is, and how dangerous. It looks like the tide is turning, unfortunately it had come up quite high so will take a long to properly go back down.

    “the kind of people that would publicly disinvite Richard Dawkins”

    As I understand that it was an ‘Atheism plius’ type event, which to me looks rather like a bunch of people trying to reinvent organised religion but without an obvious deity (but borrowing much from spiritualism). I’m not sure Dawkins would have been particularly keen on where they will be in a few years. Lucky escape for him frankly.

  • This is all nonsense anyway because any true sports fan knows full well that Delilah is the signature song of Stoke City supporters. Ask anyone from Stoke-On-Trent.

    You will be pleased to know that with my team Leicester City currently sitting top of the Premier League and therefore doing plenty of singing at the moment that our song is “when’re you’re smiling”. Now no one can take offence to that can they?

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