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What's your song?

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 18:21 UK time, Monday, 19 September 2011

For just a minute, in a gap between Vince Cable's conference address and Nick Clegg doing a question and answer session, let's talk music.

Conference season brings with it a lorry load of policy motions and obscure fringe events. Some of them, let me whisper, are a little bit on the dry side. Sitting in one last year, having assumed a posture some distance from bolt upright, and a gaze that had morphed into a daze, I had an idea. An idea not entirely connected to the presentation I was watching. But hey.

What do politicians' musical tastes tell us about them? So this year, I'm keeping a note of the music our political leaders choose to appear on stage to during the conference season.

So here goes so far. At the UK Independence Party's conference in Eastbourne a few weeks ago, leader Nigel Farage came on to Chumbawamba's Tubthumping. They are the band whose guitarist tipped a bucket of water over Lord Prescott's head at the Brits in the late nineties. "I get knocked down, but I get up again," goes one of the lyrics. "He drinks a whisky drink, he drinks a lager drink, he drinks a lager drink, he drinks a cider drink," another. For a politician who survived a plane crash on election day and is known to enjoy the odd half pint, it seems appropriate.

At the Green Party conference in Sheffield, leader Caroline Lucas decided against any music at all. But there was no such reticence at Plaid Cymru's annual gathering. Outgoing leader Ieuan Wyn Jones walked onto the stage to the strains of The Goo Goo Dolls promising "Better Days." As my colleague Betsan Powys, the BBC's Political Editor in Wales, pointed out: "He walked off relishing the thought that how to deliver those better days is no longer his shout."

Now here in Birmingham, at the Liberal Democrat conference, I've just emerged out of the hall after the Business Secretary Vince Cable's speech. As activists applauded, Mr Cable, known for his love of ballroom dancing, went for a classical number. Alas, my ignorance was exposed. But sterling work by an indefatigable party staffer on my behalf got me an answer: Vivaldi's Alla Rustica. Part of the Universal Classics Baroque compilation, apparently.

So what song should Nick Clegg have playing when he addresses the conference on Wednesday? And what about David Cameron and Ed Miliband in the next few weeks? What would you appear on stage to? I will keep you posted on 5live conference season compilation both here and on 5live Breakfast.

Chris Mason is 5 live's Political Reporter. You can follow Chris's coverage of the party conference season via Twitter - @ChrisMasonBBC


  • Comment number 1.

    Why Does it Always Rain on Me by Travis?

  • Comment number 2.

    Or - Don't Laugh at Me Cos I'm a Fool........ That'll do for all of 3 them.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm yearning for some serious stuff on here. We are all facing terrible financial and work problems, well nearly everyone, and I think it might have been good to ask a few questions of people concerning their view on how different conferences are going, starting with the Lib Dems.

  • Comment number 4.

    The biggest difficulty the political parties whose conferences are televised have , is how to differ on any main economic or social issue so it's obviously awkward for the BBC coverage of such events to make it appear as if there is.

  • Comment number 5.

    I have given up hoping for anything serious on the BBC blog carrie.

  • Comment number 6.

    Zeldalicious, Carrie, Nick - cheers for your comments. Zeldlicious, ta for your suggestions. On the issue of the tone of the blog - I totally agree there's plenty of serious stuff going on, and we're reporting it in depth on 5live, on the BBC News Politics index online and on the telly.

    I've blogged on serious issues - take the massacre in Norway over the summer for instance, or the riots. But, on the whole what I try to do here is offer a little bit value added, a bit of an insight into how we bring you political news on 5live, and perhaps something you might not find elsewhere. Always good to hear what you think though! Cheers, Chris

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Chris, thanks for coming on the blog. There may be the occasional 'serious' blog for us to comment on but they are very few and far between. There are a lot of lightweight subjects that BBC journos put up for discussion but just look at the paucity of replies. We were once able to discuss all manner of subjects on our message board but as you know they were closed down with little notice and we were left with the blog system which is generally unpopular. We can't discuss radio anymore, we can't discuss events of OUR choosing. It's just so irritating. There are many bright articulate people who would love to get really stuck into serious news but we can't as the blogs simply aren't there for us to do so. Best wishes to you.

  • Comment number 8.

    There should be a blog issue on most of the sensible 'Your Call' topics 5 Live broadcasts particularly on issues that relate to the economy and foreign affairs!

    The purpose of the blog should be to encourage down to earth and pragmatic thinking and ideas, rather than pandering to division, racist bigotry, nationalism and trivial personality politics!

  • Comment number 9.

    I read this morning that listeners to Radio Three are up in arms because their version of the breakfast show is being over run by listener involvement, tweeting etc. Is it not time that the BBC - and Five Live in particular - put a greater reliance on the intelligence (!) and skills of their presenters and stopped this constant clamour for 'tell us what you think'? It's lazy, time filling radio and nine times out of ten the contributor is inarticulate and frankly has nothing to contribute. Thoughts Mr Mason?

  • Comment number 10.

    The BBC has quite deliberately suppressed comment on radio because the standards on Radio 5 in particular are so appalling. They have succeeded in this censorship!
    Richard Bacon etc. live on.

  • Comment number 11.

    Comments 7-10 have nothing to do with the subject of the blog. The moderators can remove posts that break the House Rules, and I think it's disrespectful to the author to treat the blog as a general referendum on 5 live. It's not what it's for.

  • Comment number 12.

    Politics should not be trivialised. I think it is disrespectful to the population and to those in active political roles to pander to a lowest common denominator when talking about conferences. There was a time when all conferences including TUC, were broadcast so we could all make our minds up about what we were hearing. Now we have to depend on the selective broadcasting of speeches, and the interpretations of them by broadcast and newspaper journalists. In a rolling news station one might expect more coverage, and also a means to discuss somewhere online what we are hearing.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think this trivial blog is disrespectful to the intelligence of 5live listeners.I even had to turn off the John Pienaar show last sunday at the Lib Dem Conference in Brum.Getting a politician and a respected journalist to play a kazoo while discussing serious issues (and trust me he was )showed this station up very badly.

  • Comment number 14.

    GingerTompkins - 5 live has always covered all the serious issues properly, with a light touch where appropriate. That style goes all the way back to when Peter Allen and Jane Garvey presented Breakfast, and has continued ever since.

    carrie - I can't speak for the individual programme editors, but I think it's very unlikely we'd broadcast a political conference in its entirety, or anything approaching that. Top journalists like Chris, and our chief political correspondent John Pienaar, report what's happening and crucially, they put it in context.

  • Comment number 15.

    I didn't mean in broadcast in entirety, although on TV this was the case, but what I feel disappointed about is that this blog is just light touches and there is no chance of serious debate on this blog as there used to be on messageboards. Quite honestly, most people who have an iota of interest in politics and government don't need to be spoonfed, and don't need to have their intelligence insulted.

  • Comment number 16.

    I wouldn't say getting a politician and a journalist to play a kazoo on air while interviewing them at a party conference was ' light touch ', I'd say it was more of an humiliating experience and embarrassment for them and to 5live.Peter Allen and Jane Garvey where far more subtle in their whimsy.Something somewhat lacking with your present broadcasters on 5live.

  • Comment number 17.

    I do not wish to criticise 5 live at all, particularly at this time when they are going through all this upheaval with the move to Salford. I should like to deal with the question about music which is the subject.

    The party leaders are quite young, as politicians go, well under fifty. Therefore, they need perhaps something not light. However, you can get too serious. I would rule out something like Tennessee Ernie Ford's song Sixteen Tons - "Sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt". Of course you can get worse, Barry McGuire's song, The Eve of Destruction.

    For the Labour Party you would want to avoid the Strawb's song Part of the Union- "You don't get me I'm part of the union, until the day I die. You could have a song such as Jean Sablon's J'Attendrai, I will wait for you, symbolising that Labour will wait wait for voters to return to them.

    For the Conservatives, they symbolise sometimes resistance to change ,in which case they could have the song Fings (things) Ain't What They Used To Be, by Lionel Bart. Sometimes, the Conservatives are in favour of freeing up the country, liberty for the citizens from government. In this case they should be in favour of all liberty, and the clever lyrics in Ian Dury's Sex And Drugs And Rock n' Roll.

    Politicians are supposed to represent us, and for this reason, I think that the relatively small number of women politicians, shows that the politicians have difficulty in representing us. Have you noticed also that all the music so far is by male artists?

    Let me change this. I have my own personal selection now, as requested in this blog , by Chris Mason. My personal choice is the song You Only Live Twice. It was sung by Nancy Sinatra, an American, so that makes it unsuitable, for a British politician. However Shirley Bassey who is British of course, has done a version of it. This song shows that you have a second chance in life, and you should n't waste the chance.

    So there you are. you may like some of the songs.

  • Comment number 18.

    Jackstumps. Listener/caller input is essential in this day and age on radio combined with the presenters 'intelligence and skills'! (You wrote it!)

    If there are too many inarticulate callers put on air who, by your judgement makes little contribution then that's down to the editor and researcher who speak to caller beforehand.

    However don't you think it's a bit patronising to claim that 9/10 callers put on air come under this 'inarticulate' category? Maybe you should tweet me when your'e about to go on air and you can demonstrate to everyone how it's done!

  • Comment number 19.

    Nick - I wouldn't dream of calling a phone in show. That's my point. And as for tweeting ... forget it!

  • Comment number 20.

    Chris Mason: 'Your Cal'l is on from 9 till 10am. Many people have to work at this time.

    The Drive programme goes on from 4 - 7pm where many of the items covered are repeated. What about having another 'Your Call' from say 6 - 7pm on general political issues of the day and not on one arbitrarily selected subject like the morning show usually is. I would have thought for some the highly respected and much travelled journalist and presenter Peter Allen would be ideal to chair this hour.

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree with Jack's comment post No. 9.

    Nick haven't heard you on air for a while - do you still phone the Jeremy Vine show? Yr idea of an hour's your call on a topical subject in the eve is a good idea

  • Comment number 22.

    The Mail really getting on the Beeb's case today and listener contribution in particular - Brian Sewell and Janet Street Porter.

  • Comment number 23.

    @Jack Stumps, I am not sure that your idea taken from the Daily Mail, that listeners should shut up and listen to the the official radio presenter, goes very well with the political conference season.
    Take a look at this report

  • Comment number 24.

    Sarnia. Yes I do phone the Jeremy Vine show and now that he's a Twitterer I twit him but to no avail! Think I've upset their editorial team because they only read out an odd email or comment of mine but only when they've cut it down to size to make it JV show friendly!

    As for a PM Drive 'Your Call' it has been suggested by others as well but for some reason 5 Live executives won't comment!

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    Oh and another one why are your you commentators so anti Palace always slagging us off.....................?

  • Comment number 27.

    Is claridge a brighton fan..? tell him to shut it

  • Comment number 28.

    yeah esp if he's nothing nice to say !

  • Comment number 29.

    eat your words !!!! you don't know what your doing !!!!!


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