THE LAND, Revisted, Secularised

THE LAND, Revisted, Secularised

The Land is a protest song, popularised in the UK by David Lloyd George, the most recent Liberal prime minister in the United Kingdom. He served as prime-minister in a Conservative Majority coalition government, combining the Conservatives 38.4% of the electorate with the Coalition Liberals 13.4%. This was in a turbulent time for liberal politics, as the party was split between the Coalition Liebrals and the Anti-Coalition Liberals. This divide, among other things, led to the parties collapse and the rise of Labour.

Shares of the vote in general elections since 1832 received by Conservatives (blue), Liberals (orange), Labour (red) and others (grey).

The song focuses on the ideas of a Land Value Tax, which was popular at the time as a way of dealing with the economic power of land owenrship. As government programs to improve conditions for all, largely also improve land values and the wealth of landlords. This process of creating an economic divide is present in the UK in the modern day, with house price affordability falling to some of the worse in the developed world. The UKs proxy for a land value tax is council-tax, which places domestic properties into bands based on their value, and then applies to the household a tax which funds the local councils. The system is not without it's issues, but it does provide a proxy for a land value tax.

The current policy of the liberal democrats (per our 2019 manifest, and it's a good policy I hope we don't change too much) is to empower local councils to increase council taxes on non-primary-residence properties to 500%. This would encourage those properties onto the rental market, or to be sold, driving down house prices and rents overall as the property now has a greater liability. In addition to this, the party wants to build new homes on a national level (300,000 pa), both for social housing (to which a rent-to-own scheme will apply), and for private housing. These systems combined provide a number of demand side solutions to the housing crisis, and will hopefully make rents—and deposits—more affordable.

The Song, as it Stands

All of thise is set to deal with similar problems and feelings about the comodification of home-ownership that the land song addresses.

The song, however, has some problems.

It is incredibly religious in nature, which for a song for a society growing in secularity over time (younger people are less religious than older people), feels rather out of place. The same argument can be made for our national anthem, but as republicanism grows in popularity with the younger generations I expect a similar tide against the monarchy and thus the anthem shall occur eventually.

Here are the lyrics of the song:

Sound the blast for freedom, boys, and send it far and wide,
March along to victory, for God is on our side,
While the voice of nature thunders o'er the rising tide:
"God made the land for the people".

Chorus:
The land, the land,
'twas God who gave the land,
The land, the land,
The ground on which we stand,
Why should we be beggars
With the ballot in our hand?
God gave the land to the people.

Hark! The shout is swelling from the east and from the west!
Why should we beg work and let the landlords take the best?
Make them pay their taxes for the land, we'll risk the rest!
The land was meant for the people.

Chorus

The banner has been raised on high to face the battle din,
The army now is marching on, the struggle to begin,
We'll never cease our efforts till the victory we win,
And the land is free for the people.

Chorus

Clear the way for liberty, the land must all be free,
Britons will not falter in the fight tho' stern it be.
Till the flag we love so well shall wave from sea to sea,
O'er the land that's free for the people.

Chorus

Why we need an Anthem

Songs are an inherently unifying force. They bring people together in the singing. We saw a very powerful resurgence of the love for the art of shanties and work songs during the Pandemic, spurred on by the youth and social media platforms such as Tik-Tok, with protest songs climbing with the rest of them:

The Wokers Song, performed by The Longest Johns
The Hammer and the Anvil, by the Longest Johns

In addition to this, the most powerful moment of togetherness I've felt is a particular song being rendered at a concert. The band Marillion has a song from their album entitled "Fuck Everyone and Run", the song is called The Leavers, and is divided into 5 parts to make it more managable (as all in all, it's 19 minutes and 11 seconds long). The song is autobiographical and divides society into two groups, coincidently called remainers and leavers: the leavers are the band, they travel the world touring going place to place, seeing sights and facing trials, being away from their families. The remainers are the rest of us who don't do that. The final part of the song, The Leavers (V) One Tonight, rituatlises the process of attending a concert: I'll reproduce its lyrics here.

The Leavers (V) One Tonight by Marillion
The Remainers are leaving their homely places
With excited faces, drawn to the night
Preparing their minds for a break from the sensible life
As the leavers bring with them their noise and light, their wild wonder cure-all of crazy religion
In one sacred ritual
Unmasked and undressed
We all come together
We’re all one tonight


We come together
We come together
There are scars in our eyes
From a thousand goodbyes
That was great
You can write
But I won't reply
I won’t reply

I encourage you to watch that live recording, becuase it's a magical experience, and I count myself lucky to have experienced it in person a few times. The feeling of unity among the crowd, the conclusion of an epic prog anthem about the people in the room, the feelings they are experiecing, and the love shared between each other.

Another moment of song empowering people, a little closer to home in the British political landscape, is the moment the Conservative and Unionists illegally prorogued parliament.

The Illegal Prorogation of Parliament

In response to this, opposition benches remained sat where they were, chanting cries of "Shame On you" at the conservatives for, frankly, breaking the law and lying to the queen in an attempt to ram through a rough-shod brexit policy that now they themselves say was a bad one that shouldn't have been forced through. Perhaps it could have done with some more parliamentary scrutiny...

Anyway, after everyone left, and it was just the opposition benches sat in parliament, they started to sing. While technically against the rules of Parliament to film these events, those didn't seem to matter very much at the time given this was happening while the conservatives were quite literally breaking the law in the other room.

The SNP sung Wha Hae:

Lay the proud usurpers low, Tyrants fall in every foe, Liberty is in every blow, Let us do or die!'

The welsh members sun Calon Lân:

A pure heart full of goodness Is fairer than the pretty lily, None but a pure heart can sing, Sing in the day and sing in the night.

Labour joined in with the Red Flag:

Then raise the scarlet standard high. Beneath its shade we'll live and die, Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, We'll keep the red flag flying here.

A number of MPs are recounted as having hummed Ode to Joy, the EU anthem.

The SNP and Welsh Labour + Plaid Cymru followed with Flower of Scotland and Bread of Heaven

And there are no accounts of the Liberal Democrats singing The Land, even though everyone there would know it: it gets sung to open glee club after all. This really is a shame, as its a powerful song that speaks to the problems many of us are facing.

A New Land

So lets fix it, lets keep the good and revise the old, lets modernise it, lets make it the powerful political anthem for our age I feel in my heart it could  be. I sung it last night (quiety, in my room) in joy when we overturned the Tiverton and Honiton byelection. It feels hopeful to me already, that there might be a better future around the corner. I'm politically optimistic for the first time in my entire life (from the time I understood politics, we went from the 2008 financial collapse and pointless wars, to 12 years of conservatives). I feel a future exists where we see  the liberals back in government, and can secure the proportional representation and constitutional reform this country desperately needs. That love for my country and hope for the future deserves a song to sing.

First things first, I'm going to switch it to a work song. Gen Z can't be trusted to learn an entire song, and they certainly wont make Tik-Toks about it, but if we give them a chorus that'll work. In a work song or shantie, you generally have one person lead it and sing all the boring bits, then everyone comes together for the chorus. You hit strong beats and drive the song forward.

💜
The above is in jest. I'm barely a millennials myself, and plenty of Americans who define the entire global landscape around 9/11 would consider me to be Gen Z.

That makes the chorus the most important part so lets start there. Then lets start with its final line, which should pack the most punch:

God gave the land to the people.

Oh dear, so this'll be quite some work then. The sentiment behind the line is beautiful, land isn't owned by right to any person, it is the shared property of "the people", and it was made that way "by god". Historically, the land was owned through conquest, then given out to people for political influence. It has been comodified and sold on from there, creating a scarse and limited asset. Housing isn't quite so limited as land, as we can build more of them, but it still faces limits in where people are happy for houses to be built and where it is useful to do so.

This change is going to seat the central crux of the entire revision, and so getting it right is quite important. We don't want people singing different versions of the chorus and getting all jumbled up with each other.

💜
Yes, I know that's an argument against this entire revision, I'm still making it though.

God is the big problem here, less and less people believe in one every day, dilutuing the message. We still want to convey the fact that "the people" are the rightful owners of "the land", and that this is something unquestionable. We also need to end in "the land _ the people" to fit with the rest of the song. We also have quite limited syllables to fit with the music.

I'm also going to want "the land" to feel less like it literally talks about land ownership, and more about the spirit of the nation, our home land-and the wealth it prodices.

We gave the land to the people.

The worry with this line is people will feel like it's us bigging our selves up as liberal democrats, but what I want to stress here is that it's about we the people, giving the land to the people. We are all that determines who owns what, it's a societal contract. Its breakable, changable, and all who hold wealth hold it at the will of the people. I'm not calling for the guillotines, but the idea that "land" is only owned because "the people" consent to its ownership is an important one.

It also complements and flows from the previous line, which shall remain unchanged.

Why should we be beggars
with the ballot in our hands?
We gave the land to the people.

This substitution gives us a nice, strong, punchy chorus:

The land, the land,
'twas we who gave the land,
The land, the land,
The ground on which we stand,
Why should we be beggars
With the ballot in our hand?
We gave the land to the people.

With the added benefit that if someone is singing the old version of the chorus, only one word will get a big muddled: we/god. Now with the chorus done, it's just a matter of tidying up the parts for the songmaster. The nice part about having this be in the format of a work song is only the songmaster needs to figure these out, so if you're leading the song you're free to revise these are you like, these are the revisions I favour however:

Sound the blast for freedom, boys, and send it far and wide,
March along to victory, for God is on our side,
While the voice of nature thunders o'er the rising tide:
"God made the land for the people".

This one has a few points of revision, first of all "boys", we are a much more multi-gender socity than in the 1910s, so lets go with "loud". Next up is god, this one can't really be replaced with "we" because "for we are on our side" sounds stupid, so I'm going to go with something the current government is sorely lacking: "truth". Finally our last reference to god making and giving the land can be made secular, but this is harder as we still need to keep "for the people" at the end.

Sound the blast for freedom loud, and send it far and wide,
March along to victory, for truth is on our side,
While the voice of nature thunders o'er the rising tide:
"The land is here for the people".

Next verse

Hark! The shout is swelling from the east and from the west!
Why should we beg work and let the landlords take the best?
Make them pay their taxes for the land, we'll risk the rest!
The land was meant for the people.

This one actually doesn't have much wrong with it, but there is one change I want to make here. Understandably, the song is focused on landlords, being a song about land ownership, but to make it a bit more spirit-of-the-nationy, and a little bit more social, I'm going to propose swapping "landlords" for "richest". But as always, this is a songmasters part, so do what you personally like best with it.

Hark! The shout is swelling from the east and from the west!
Why should we beg work and let the richest take the best?
Make them pay their taxes for the land, we'll risk the rest!
The land was meant for the people.

Next verse

The banner has been raised on high to face the battle din,
The army now is marching on, the struggle to begin,
We'll never cease our efforts till the victory we win,
And the land is free for the people.

This is perfect, a bit millitary but that's fine, we have a rich millitary history. Bashing the drum of "british soldiers defending british freedoms" is historically a vote winner, and though I have a pacifist soul I'll yield to the historic necessity of millitary action.

Clear the way for liberty, the land must all be free,
Britons will not falter in the fight tho' stern it be.
Till the flag we love so well shall wave from sea to sea,
O'er the land that's free for the people.

Perfect, so that gives us our full song, revised:

Songmaster:
Sound the blast for freedom loud, and send it far and wide,
March along to victory, for truth is on our side,
While the voice of nature thunders o'er the rising tide:
"The land is here for the people".

Chorus:
The land, the land,
'twas we who gave the land,
The land, the land,
The ground on which we stand,
Why should we be beggars
With the ballot in our hand?
We gave the land to the people.

Songmaster:
Hark! The shout is swelling from the east and from the west!
Why should we beg work and let the richest take the best?
Make them pay their taxes for the land, we'll risk the rest!
The land was meant for the people.

Chorus

Songmaster:
The banner has been raised on high to face the battle din,
The army now is marching on, the struggle to begin,
We'll never cease our efforts till the victory we win,
And the land is free for the people.

Chorus

Songmaster:
Clear the way for liberty, the land must all be free,
Britons will not falter in the fight tho' stern it be.
Till the flag we love so well shall wave from sea to sea,
O'er the land that's free for the people.

Chorus