To a studio across the road from Liberal Democrat headquarters in London’s Great
George Street. HDUK has come here to watch rehearsals from the newest
Westminster-musical crossover as, through a fug of dope smoke, seven white men
knock out a rudimentary ‘groove’ while energetic frontman Tim Farron bounces around
in a headdress, improvising his vocals into a secondhand microphone.
“I think that went fairly well for a first try,” Farron told us during a break in rehearsals as, nearby, the lanky figure
doing sound and skinning up was revealed to be Sir Danny Alexander. “We’ve only been together since Tuesday
and Norm there hasn’t learned how to play his instrument properly yet.” Tim noted, pointing at red-eyed drummer Norman Lamb MP who was adjusting his cymbals. “But I’m stupidly
optimistic about this whole thing, as always.”
The smiling LibDem leader went on: “Ever since my party’s crushing defeat at last year’s General Election I’ve been thinking ‘outside the box’, trying to come up with new ways of getting our
policies out there, following the exodus of party members. It was actually [LibDem Economic Spokesperson] Baroness Kramer who said to me, we should see the ‘more selective’ appeal of
our party as a strength rather than a weakness. Now that we’re down to eight Liberal Democrat members of parliament the whole operation is slimline and mobile enough to fit into one van. I was
just musing on possible fundraising techniques last weekend when an old Jamiroquai video came online and then it hit me - an octet like this is the perfect size for a jazz-funk band!”
Indeed, as recently as last April, the Liberal Democrats were all puffed up and strutting about like foolishly empowered cockerels,
pretending to be the second most important politicos in the country. This mentality came about following a period in coalition with the
ruling Conservatives but, after half a decade, the party suddenly found itself cut down to size; a very, very small size. Indeed, ex-leader
Nick Clegg now has the destruction of a once-successful political movement on his conscience, meaning newbie Farron is left to pick up
the pieces. These days the UK parliament website no longer lists the LibDem frontbench while the party itself is outside the top ten British favourites for the first
time, behind the Conservatives, Labour, the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, Women’s Equality, the Northern Ireland one, UKIP, the English Defence League and
that stoned bloke’s pro-Cannabis party. But these aren’t the only indicators of horrible shrinkage and general failure - at present this party only has 126,000
followers on Twitter which, to put that in context, is one third of those currently following Katie Hopkins. So the Liberal Democrats are now one-third as popular
as Katie Hopkins. Consider that.
But Farron refuses to lay down and die like he probably should, instead telling Home Defence about plans for his ‘supergroup’ while we helped to load the band’s
gear into an unwashed tourbus outside their rehearsal space.
“Aside from myself and Norm there,” Tim (left) explained. “We’ve got Alistair [Carmichael MP] on turntables, DJing and the occasional bagpipe, Tom [Brake MP] with his
thrift-shop Moog, Mark [Williams MP] playing flute and saxophone, Greg [Mullholland MP] on guitar or acoustic piano while Johnny there [John Pugh MP] will help out with
additional percussion. He’s getting on a bit now, but Johnny will also try to play the didgeridoo if I ask him nicely. Hopefully we can raise a bit of funding for him to have
lessons on the clavinet, or possibly the flugelhorn.”
When asked about their absent bass guitarist Tim explained: “That’s Cleggy. He loves to gyrate behind the electric slap-bass while performing, but Nick couldn’t make our
rehearsal today.” Farron leaned in closer, confiding: “I think he heard you were coming actually. Nick’s obviously keen to keep a low profile - he’s already talked about
adopting the stage name ‘The Slap-Bass Thing’ until the death threats stop. Our last leader is also considering a disguise on stage, so our audience won’t spend the entire
set pelting him with rotten fruit.”
Farron went on to explain the supporting roles of others across the extended LibDem family, all of whom have stepped in to help with the band, provisionally named ‘The Brand New Libbies’.
They include failed politician Lynne Featherstone on promotional duties and social media “because she’s good at that sort of thing” touring manager Vince Cable, who is charged with booking
venues and ensuring the profit margins are high. Also on the team will be Defence Spokeswoman Baroness Jolly, working behind the merch stall where her cheerful gregariousness is
expected to be an asset in selling branded teatowels, homemade CD-Rs and badges with slogans like ‘I Voted LibDem in 2010’ and ‘The Coalition Wasn’t So Bad In Retrospect Now Was it?’
Reports claiming legendary campaigner Shirley Williams (right) tried to join the group as a tambourinist and ‘Bez-style’ dancer but was subsequently rebuffed when the 85 year-old firebrand
couldn’t get touring insurance, have been strenuously denied by the collective. Either way, Tim Farron was today forced to admit the LibDems’ political intention of “promoting diversity”
hasn’t been helped by his musical group consisting solely of middle-aged white men but “sadly, these were the only MPs we could get elected”. Talk then turned to an impending LP, to
be recorded at Chris Huhne’s home studio and released on the label co-owned by Norman Lamb’s son - ‘Takeover Entertainment’ - this autumn. Here the Brand New Libbies will find
themselves on a hip, young roster alongside the likes of labelmates Dappy, Ruff Sqwad and Tinchy Stryder.
But industry mainstay and jazz-funk aficionado Bongbong Khashoggi isn’t convinced, he told HDUK: “It’s all very well charging people to see some political leader prance
around on-stage in a leopardskin leotard while his MPs struggle to play in time nearby, but how long before the novelty of career politicians performing bad music wears
off? Not long, if I’m any judge.”
“And who’s going to stream these watered-down jazz-funk improvisations anyway?” Bongbong (left) went on with incredulity. “No one, from what I can see. It’s going to
be very difficult to raise enough funds for the ‘full Liberal reboot’ Farron has talked of, not from live shows alone. Even if they do spend eight months a year out on the.
road, and their schedule isn’t really possible when parliament’s in session. Not to mention a huge part of the market for this music consists of stoned students who are
hardly likely to shill out for anything being peddled by the Liberal Democrats. With tuition fees what they are, few would be able to afford tickets to the shows anyway,
even if they wanted them.”
But the Liberal Democrat party leader isn’t deterred. Farron has booked a series of gigs across the south of England in preparation for the upcoming tour and is now said to be spending every spare moment working on lyrics inspired by the LibDem ethos of ‘liberty, equality, community’ along with ‘championing the dignity of the individual’ and ‘legalising da demon ‘erb’.
We caught up with Farron again while he was leafletting Frome’s main shopping precinct before a concert at the local Cheese and Grain venue. Tim told us: “Come along tomorrow
and bring your friends – it’s going to be great! After our set the younger generation can share a massive spliff with us round the back of the toilets. We’ll also have party
membership forms, if anyone wants to fill one out.”
“I’m really looking forward to performing,” Farron went on. “And if it goes well, who knows? Maybe we’ll find a compact performance space in Brighton that can double as our Party
Conference venue. This could be a converted shed, or just a room above a nice pub. As long as we can rig up a PA and fit a dozen chairs inside. That should cover all our party
conference needs for the year.”