Back in October 2013 I chucked my two penneth down into the interweb along with a thousand others who had something to say about Russell Brand – (Russell Brand’s Revolution or “Wankers one and all”?). He’d just leapt into the political spotlight having guest edited the Spectator magazine and appeared on Newsnight to tell Jeremy Paxman that he didn’t, hadn’t and never would vote.
His viewpoint at the time was:
“I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I’d have the right to vote. Well, they were conned. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. I feel it is a far more potent political act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently X-ing a little box.”
And a lot of people agreed with him (a lot didn’t as well) – but the point of the article and the mood of the time that he influenced was that change was possible, we could be the masters of that change. We didn’t need a political elite to represent us, a group of toffs that were too far removed from reality to understand (or care) about anything other than their own (and their donors, pals, school chums, employers, and future employers) self interests to be able to represent ‘us’.
“I will never vote and I don’t think you should, either.”
Is the one that has been used a thousand times since to negate the (actually massively positive) messages he announces every day (Monday to Friday – even revolutionaries have to have a weekend off) on his highly entertaining YouTube channel the TREWS.
In a nutshell his manifesto has become basically:
- We are fucking up the environment.
- The poor are staying poor (or getting poorer) as the rich are getting richer
- The divide between the two is getting larger.
- The media are manipulative and not particularly truthful.
- Corporations and consumerism are the powerful forces that facilitate this inequality.
- And it doesn’t seem to matter who you vote into power it won’t change anything.
And I agree with him on all of the above, I recently wrote this piece (UK Election: Voting for the Rat King?) on how I see UK politics as a tangled mess of interconnectedness, and how it doesn’t matter who you vote for, you are not voting for change. (Thanks to Bill Hicks a little bit for a nudge in the right direction) and I also recently wrote this on inequality.
However his position has softened over time, and perhaps through self-education and understanding the situation a bit more, he is no less enthused, but perhaps slightly less final, less absolute in his standing. For example in a reply to criticism by Johnny Rotten (the original anarchist of all people, he called Brand a ‘bumhole!’) in October last year he realigned his standing a bit:
“What I said was, ‘There’s nothing worth voting for.’ That’s why I don’t vote…If there was someone worth voting for, I’d vote for it and I’d encourage other people if they think that there is a political party that represents their views; if they think there are politicians that are speaking on their behalf, by all means vote for them.”
And 19 months after his first declaration he’s come full circle and is now advocating for voting (of course after the deadline which I and many other could register to vote had passed) and is suggesting that Ed Milliband is the chosen one.
He has this to say on the matter:
“My recommendation that people vote Labour is an optimistic punt that the degeneration of Britain will be slowed down and the lives of the most vulnerable will be a little more bearable than they’d’ve been under the Tories. Nothing more ambitious than that.”
It’s a brave move that’s for sure. The media that have lambasted him for telling people not to vote for the last year and bit will now be lampooning him for changing his mind and telling people to vote.
And I’ve got to be honest I’m a bit disappointed in him, not that I agree with not voting bit, but that he seems to have been so heavily swayed by the razzmatazz of the pre-election campaigning. The photo opportunities with babies, and the leaflets through the doors, the distastefully expensive advertisement of promise has influenced him and persuaded his hand, he’s jumped ship straight onto a bandwagon. He knows how it works, and if he claims not to have been persuaded by a bit of last minute electioneering, then why didn’t he come to this decision in 2013? It’s like the lifelong atheist turning to religion on his deathbed – just in case.
I think he’s let himself down.
In his most recent Question Time appearance the one where he labelled Nigel Farage “A Poundshop Enoch Powell” one of the audience members asked him why he didn’t stand for parliament, and his answer was:
“I’m scared I’d become one of them.”
I hope that answer doesn’t come back to haunt him one day…
His backtrack made me think of a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche:
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”
I’m afraid what Brand will become after May 8th…
I hope there is a good turnout for the voting tomorrow, and I hope a lot of people make their own stand and vote for the party that they believe best represents them. If I was there, I had that decision to make. I know exactly what I would do.
I would write in thick capital letters:
NONE OF THE ABOVE