“As far as the country is concerned, I think it’s in a terrible state.” Perhaps that could account for the downbeat, bluesy tone of a new solo album by former Parliamentary minister and long-term Lewes MP Norman Baker.
The cover of the album, ‘Staying Blue,’ shows Mr Baker on Brighton beach with the wrecked West Pier in the background. It’s set to be released through the Angel Air label on April 6.
Fans of the MP’s musical genre will be delighted it reflects, even enhances, his philosophy, beliefs and personality.
Music is integral to his life. He explained: “It was there before politics and is still with me now. This album is not my usual style. It’s released under my own name, other musicians involved, obviously, and recorded in Brighton. Of 11 tracks, eight were co-written with Duncan Campbell from Newhaven. There’s a sea shanty, ‘Shipping Forecast,’ another with an amazing saxophone solo, acoustic blues; It’s a complete mixture.”
Mr Baker said: “After 28 years in politics I want to do different things every day; three weeks at this, four at that.” Since leaving Parliament he’s penned a revealing memoir, ‘Against the Grain’ (2015); is working on two further books; taken on consultancy roles; writes on transport and environment; and freelances for the BBC. For a year he headed Brighton’s Big Lemon Bus company which doubled in size on his watch.
Born in Aberdeen in 1957, Mr Baker was a LibDem politician representing Lewes from the 1997 General Election to defeat by Conservative Maria Caulfield in 2015. Appointed Transport Minister, he moved to a Home Office ministerial post under Theresa May. “Do I miss it? When the curtain comes down you leave the stage,” he said. “I didn’t want to hang around like a ghost.”
In 2011, Times writer Matthew Parris said: “You underestimate him at your peril - he has a habit of being right.”
Mr Baker laughed when offered a pensioner’s discount at a Seaford chippy. “That’s wrong. Old people get heaps of benefits and youngsters are completely screwed.”
That comment, plus his musical style, upholds an ‘Independent’ quote dubbing him “The only hippie at an Iron Maiden concert.”
He still lives in Lewes: “It’s my town.” Retirement has not softened his edges.