Question Time usually leaves me disillusioned about democracy. The platitudes fly from the panel. The question partly gets discussed if there is time after delivering the party HQ line, before moving on to the next topic.
Last night there was a different energy, generated by the presence of Russell Brand and his open shirt. He was eager to deliver the thunder bolt, by calling Nigel Farage a “pound shop Enoch Powell.”
Thing is, in these austere times pound shop is proving rather popular:
The recession has also helped pound shops thrive. Increasingly stretched household budgets mean even those perceived as well-off are starting to look for bargains. In a sign of Poundland’s increasingly middle-class customer base.
Chief executive Jim McCarthy said better-off shoppers were making up a growing proportion of his customers. “Our single price point and our amazing value are appealing to an increasingly broad section of shoppers with 22% of our UK customers now coming from the [richest] AB demographic.” [Yahoo]
The rise of Poundland and UKIP are similar.
Here is Brand’s problem – he bemoans that there is nothing to vote for but he will not stand for office because he will become like them. The far right have no such qualms about standing for public office, laying down the groundwork over time at the grass roots, waiting for the economic crisis and resulting disillusionment to catapult them to power. Watching UKIP get into bed with them at the EU parliament should outrage us.
The spiritual political revolution has always been rejected at the ballot box (The Natural Law Party anyone?). Brand was derided when he said he would not stand. The audience would always cheer a good soundbite. When during a question on adversarial politics Russell talked over an MP and called her disparagingly love, the audience saw the real unscripted Brand. Bullying, misogynistic, intimidating – the old politics we want to leave behind.
The only thing new about Brand is the marketing. The publisher of his book “Revolution” is owned by the same group that own The Financial Times. Tax havens prevent much needed funds for public services, yet Brand pays nearly £100,000 in rent to a landlord based offshore. Brand is not red, more in the pink.
Yet that is nothing compared to his opinions. Promoting economic autarky while suggesting the world needs to come together. That 9/11 was a government conspiracy. That Orwell promoted collectivism. Cuba has freedom.
You may think Russell has his heart in the right place, but it’s where he has put his head that worries me. For if UKIP need challenging for their narrative on immigration and championing Putin, so does Russell Brand’s bizarre and ill informed nonsense. Just do not show him a graph – he has not got time for facts and figures. His revolution is based on emotional diatribe being swallowed by a gullible public. The Question Time audience rejected the spoon feeding he offered, demanding real substance.
To engage the public to civic action you need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. We demand that from politicians, but also from celebrities that want the platform and megaphone but not the responsibility that goes with it.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog