Why, why, why ban Delilah?

Guy Birchall

Topics Politics

As the Six Nations kicked off on the weekend, underpants-selfie aficionado and shadow leader of the House of Commons, Chris Bryant, called for Welsh rugby fans to stop singing the Tom Jones hit ‘Delilah’ at matches.

Immediately one feels compelled to ask: Why, why, why?

Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda, said: ‘It is a simple fact that when there are big international rugby matches on, and sometimes football matches as well, the number of domestic violence incidents rises dramatically… I know that some people will say, “Oh, here we go, he’s a terrible spoilsport”, but the truth is that that song is about the murder of a prostitute.’

The colossal fun-sponge admitted to singing the supposedly unacceptable classic: ‘I have sung Delilah as well, everybody loves doing the “She stood there laughing” moment, but if we are really going to take this issue seriously in Wales, we have to change how we do things.’

According to Bryant, otherwise mild-mannered Welshmen are whipped up into a violent frenzy by singing a song about a scorned lover. But Bryant clearly isn’t a big rugby fan, or he’d know that ‘Delilah’ is not about a sex worker. Perhaps he was thinking of ‘Roxanne’. What’s more, suggesting that the song trivialises violence against women is as laughable as arguing ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ makes light of violence against the police.

As a Stoke City fan, I’ve sung ‘Delilah’ for years and, thus far, it hasn’t turned me into a woman-beating lunatic. Bryant’s complaint is just another example of an out-of-touch elite lecturing the masses on what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. I have yet to meet a single person remotely offended by the lyrics. In any case, the lyrics are: ‘I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more.’ The violence is merely implied. More importantly, chants in the stands have no bearing on the actions of those singing them after the game. You very rarely see a swinging chariot around Twickenham, for example.

The idea that banning a song could impact on domestic violence trivialises the issue more than rugby fans ever could. Bryant’s virtue signalling does nothing to help victims of domestic abuse or prevent violent crime. It simply serves to make Bryant and those like him look like they are ‘doing something’. The fact that what they’re doing is pointless and censorious doesn’t matter – as long as people know they ‘care’.

Guy Birchall is a writer based in London.

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Topics Politics


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