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I got my hands on Russell Brand’s new book over the Christmas holiday. I decided to get it when I saw it going free on Audible, and I have been following his evolution from comedian to campaigner with fascination since the beginning of last year. I also saw his performance on Question Time in early December and was particularly captivated by his answer when an audience member asked why he didn’t plan on running for Parliament. “I’m scared I’d become one of them,” was the response, at which the audience (who were already a rowdy bunch) moaned and tutted loudly.
However, it struck as both honest and intelligent that Russell Brand felt vulnerable to the very establishment he was trying to break down. When the audience reacted the way they did I felt sympathy for the activist and former addict, hoping that he would delve further into exactly what he meant, but in true Question Time style the focus moved on before anyone could really speak any sense on the subject.
Russell Brand is an interesting character. While in his book, Revolution, he likes to bring us back to his time as a teenager and the working class life of a disengaged Essex family, it would be unfair to say he hasn’t gained from the establishment and the social constructs it has firmly placed as a priority.
That said, in many ways the fact that he can see the “bigger picture” and understand that his own selfish gains do nothing to move society forward into a more equal and collective entity, is something I commend. But would I vote for him because of that? Definitely not.
The reason that Russell Brand cannot run as an MP is because he would be involving himself in the pop-up democracy that he is trying to bring down. Those who argue against this might believe that surely one of the best ways to destroy the current political process would be from within, detonating the gunpowder where it would impact the most people, so to speak. (With metaphors like that, I think I might be listening to him too much).
The thing is, with this sort of thing – and yes, it’s a thing, you can use big decorated words like Brand but it’s definitely a “thing” – is that there are numerous methods as to how you create change and influence people. For this man in the audience to ask Russell why, if he has all these opinions, he isn’t running for MP is just ignorant of the fact that you do things outside of the political system because you believe the political system is broken. If you tried to detonate a bomb inside it, it wouldn’t be big enough and the media would make you look like a terrorist.
Not only that, but before you even got to the point where you had both hands on the detonator, there would literally be hundreds of people convincing you not to do it. Tony Benn famously commented on how difficult it was to exclude yourself from the system, how as a human it felt almost natural to join in with the almost rehearsed scenes between each political party. Interestingly, he also said in his famous speech to Parliament that he was leaving to become more involved in politics.
Thing is, Russell Brand’s awareness that he would only become a weaker campaigner for entering the world of party politics is one that I absolutely understand, and mostly agree with. You can’t effectively or properly criticise something that you are a part of. Humans create emotional attachments, and that is no different in politics.
Russell Brand should never think of standing for Parliament anywhere if he seriously means to bring down the current forms of power. I’m not condoning or slamming his views on not voting, as I believe everyone has the right to decide that for themselves, but while listening to his book I was taken in by his thoughts on those telling him that men and women fought two world wars to determine his right to vote. If those men and women were alive today, would they be happy with the crock of shit we have to vote for today?
I don’t think they would, and if they saw Russell Brand all suited and booted, knocking on doors for the Green Party (God forbid), I think they might give him a look, hear the same old rhetoric spouting from his mouth, and close the door.