The comedian, actor and now political activist Russell Brand has recently released his third book, ‘Revolution’. Its publication follows controversial Newsnight appearances, columns for The Guardian and even a spot guest-editing The New Statesman. The Gryphon asks: should we support Russell Brand’s revolution of the British political system?
I’ve always had mixed feelings about Russell Brand. I applaud his recovery from drug abuse and his subsequent dedication to helping others and changing our laws on drugs. He seems to want real change in British politics, which I wholeheartedly agree with. But on the other hand, I simply cannot condone his view that voting is pointless, nor that our current political system is beyond help.
Do I think that Brand has given due consideration to how his revolution would be brought about? No. But does that mean we should completely write him off? Absolutely not.
I’m always delighted when politics is discussed by people other than politicians. Real political change and engagement requires the rest of us to put pressure on those in charge and fortunately, our democracy allows us to do just that. Although he may not have the answers, Brand is certainly asking the right questions. Seeing as the government haven’t managed to sort our country out yet, it seems harsh to criticize Brand for not having the solutions. The condescension which Brand has received for opening his mouth only serves to cement the feeling that many have that they are not ‘qualified’ to speak about politics, or that ‘they don’t know enough’.
Although he may not have the answers, Brand is certainly asking the right questions. Seeing as the government haven’t managed to sort our country out yet, it seems harsh to criticize Brand for not having the solutions.
That’s not to say that Brand’s ideas shouldn’t be subject to the same Paxman-style scrutiny as everyone else. But the man is using his celebrity to spark real debate about inequality in our country, which is a whole lot better than many celebrities who use their fame to flog their latest perfume. And frankly, many young people are more likely to sit up and take notice of someone like Brand than they are of Westminster’s elite. He’s funny, engaging and is taking on the big issue that our politicians are afraid of: does our current democracy work for everyone?
Let us not forget too, that Brand is not just talking the talk. He has supported firefighters on strike, the E15 mums (who were thrown out of a hostel for young mothers), and led a rent hike protest in east London. He has proved himself to be a man of action; he now needs to figure out what he’s fighting for as well as what he is against.
Brand is right that we deserve more from our political system. His manifesto needs considerable work, but as someone who has worked his way up from the bottom, he is more than qualified to throw his hat into the ring.
Rachel Megan Barker
I was surprised and amused when I saw a photo of Russell Brand holding a “Save our NHS” leaflet. It’s not that I don’t agree with him that the current government’s policies are a threat to the NHS and that it is important that we preserve it for future generations. It’s the irony of the fact that the NHS wouldn’t even exist if the majority of people in the UK hadn’t voted for Clement Attlee into power in 1945, and yet Russell Brand tells us not to bother with voting.
All political parties want to win elections. As a result, they are far more likely to create policies which cater to the needs and desires of groups which are more likely to vote. Far more pensioners vote than under 25s, so there is a far greater incentive to cater to the needs and desires of pensioners than of young people. By encouraging people not to vote, Russell is ensuring that political parties do not pass policies which benefit the highest number of people.
Furthermore, Brand’s idea that voting does not change anything is ridiculous. For him to say that, “all the parties are the same” is not true. I mentioned the NHS, a product of the Attlee government, which came into existence because people voted for that government; if people had voted for the Tories or worse, hadn’t voted at all, we may not have this vital service. In recent memory, without the 1997 Labour government, we would not have the minimum wage or such higher numbers of young people going to university. Without the Thatcher government, we would have not have the privatization of British Telecom or British Airways. These are just a few examples where which government people have voted for has had a significant impact on what’s happened in the country during the five years after that.
By encouraging people not to vote, Russell is ensuring that political parties do not pass policies which benefit the highest number of people.
Going into 2015, there are already very clear differences between the parties, even before the manifestos have been released. To give just a few examples, the Tories will hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, which Labour will not, while Labour will repeal the Bedroom Tax.
If you want more radical change, then getting involved in politics and voting is the way to make it happen. Don’t waste a chance to vote as Brand would have you do.
Brand has hinted recently that he might run for Mayor of London. I’m personally not sure how well he’ll do, considering he’s told us all not to vote, but at least the profits from his new book mean his recent political engagement hasn’t been for nothing.