This is Russell Brand. He is a comedian. Apparently. Some people find him funny, I can't say I ever have done. I tend to think he is a pompous twat.
Last month he did an interview with Jeremy Paxman. For those of you who don't know, Paxman is the man who puts politicians in their place. He could make even the most seasoned politician squirm. During this interview, Brand started going on about how people shouldn't vote, because it was a waste of time, and that young people should start a revolution by not voting.
Today, fading musician Morrissey (I don't care what anyone says, he is waaaay past his prime) joined in and supported Brand's statements.
This is Morrissey. He's pretty miserable. I also think he is a pompous twat.
Last week, a leading think tank responded to the debate with a report that states that it is better to vote, because those that don't get ignored by politicians. In a lesson in not reading the bottom of the internet, many people seem to believe that the idea that politicians pay more attention to those that vote for them is complete BS. Well it isn't.
I spent 7 years as a local politician. I spent many more springs than that trudging up and down the streets of my city, canvassing opinions, listening to voters problems.While I tried to give as much attention to every demographic of my residents, in reality there were limited resources and limited time, and that meant that I had to devote more attention to the people that actually voted in the election. Our policies as a party tried to encompass everyone, particularly the hard to reach, but it is all too easy to concentrate on your largest electoral demographic over everyone else. Besides, they are the ones that provide the feedback you ask for, the ones that have the loudest voices when it comes to making their voices heard. Only through showing some kind of engagement with the process can a demographic be seen and heard. Sitting back and saying or doing nothing is not going to achieve good outcomes for that group.
But the thing that really gets me the most is the sheer waste that the attitude of Brand et al signifies. I can't help but think that in the UK we are pretty fortunate in the democracy stakes. Ok, it isn't the best system in the world, but it is a long way off from being the worst. To put it in context, the UK is ranked 16th most democratic out of 167 countries by the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2012. North Korea is 167. That means that there are 151 countries in the world with less democratic freedoms than the UK. There are numerous countries where voting is a formality to elect the dictator that runs the country, where opposition parties are banned, where even if opposition parties do exist, voters are tortured into voting in a particular way.
In comparison the UK seems like paradise! We even have limited terms for elections now! The constitution of the United Kingdom is such that elections are guaranteed, that just about everyone over the age of 18 can vote or stand in elections!
So my question is, if Russell Brand is so dissatisfied with the political parties in the UK, why the hell does he not use his power and influence to create one himself? That's the wonderful thing about the UK electoral system, anyone can do that! I've seen ballot papers with 30 names on because anyone can form a party and run for election. Sure there is a deposit to pay to run as a candidate, but it is a not too unreasonable £500. I'm sure Brand could find that lying around somewhere. And I'm sure his party wouldn't lose too many deposits - you need 5% of the vote to get it back, which works out to roughly 4000 votes per constituency. I reckon the first time his party ran the novelty factor would work in their favour. I'm sure he'd be able to think of a witty name from his repertoire of dandy language. If you're reading this Russell, just don't let Morrissey be in charge. Britain is already miserable enough without his lack of enthusiasm. You'd be wise not to make him head of campaigns either. Maybe put him as spokesperson for the DWP or something.
But of course one of the problems in the system is the way votes are calculated. But I'd have to ask Russell Brand whether he voted in the referendum to change to the AV system (I suspect the answer would be no). Surely a man so desperate for change would at least vote for some change to a flawed system?
At the end of the day, I suspect that Brand's inane rantings about the state of politics in this country will have left no more an impression on the voters of today than a finger on jelly. Time will tell, and with just over 18 months until the next general election there is still time for impressionable minds to be won, and reason to be had. I'd like to think that the debate that has been generated by these celebrities could be worthwhile and produce some compelling reasons why voting is important. My experience of knocking on doors of is that apathy is all too present, particularly in the disenfranchised.
I don't have the answers. I was the candidate who had a mental note of the various routes to the polling stations and where prospective voters (usually students) could go for a pint to reward themselves after doing their duty, which seemed to serve me well in the pursuit of elections. Maybe that is the thing that most candidates lack: a sense of being a real person. Maybe just being trustworthy is enough. Who knows (actually there is probably a study or two out there).
Just ignore Brand. Go and vote. You have the power to make change. And with great power, comes great responsibility.
Five Reasons to Vote
1. It is your duty as a responsible citizen to take your ballot paper and mark it. Doesn't have to be for a candidate, spoilt ballots are counted. Just don't draw a big cross through all the boxes resulting in the centre of the cross being in one of the boxes. That will get counted for that candidate (accidental BNP vote?).
2. The government decides things like the amount of tax you pay on fuel, cigarettes, alcohol etc.
3. The government decides things like how much housing benefit is, how much JSA is etc, and who should be able to claim those benefits and for how long.
4. The government allocates budgets to local authorities, who have to make up the shortfall with council tax. Which you pay.
5. This video explains what happens if you don't do politics: