Last night, Russell Brand appeared on Newsnight, interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, to talk politics. He announced early on that he doesn’t vote, and never has.
Paxman, being Paxman, retorted: “How do you have any authority to talk about politics then?”
I believe the answer is simple; it doesn’t make any difference.
In 2010, the Liberal Democrats made a pledge not to raise tuition fees. In 2010 the Liberal Democrats raised tuition fees. This is far from an isolated occurrence. What can we do? Sit around until 2015, that’s what, and then vote for someone else, who will do the exact same thing.
Not only are promises broken, the three major political parties in the UK seem to do whatever they like once they’re elected anyway. In 2010, I don’t recall a manifesto of post office privatisation, bedroom taxes and ‘GO HOME’ vans from David Cameron and his cronies. The argument is of course that there can be no set plans prior to making government as much can change in a five-year term, however the sweeping changes to our country, in privatisation, austerity and immigration, are ideological, not a necessary reaction to the changing world. Look back to any Conservative government, privatisation today is re-privatisation and austerity comes and goes at the whim of the elite.
The nature of our political system ensures that Parliament acts with the general consent of some of the people, but only every five years do we get to show our displeasure, and then the cycle continues.
With the consistent failure of any established political party to take progressive action, it’s no wonder that people are looking for alternatives. Faced with a ballot paper, discounting Lib/Lab/Con doesn’t leave you with many alternatives. UKIP seem to be filling the gap, according to current statistics seen as the third most popular party in the UK.
However, this is no real alternative. The suggestion that it is immigrants who are the cause of all our woes, and that cracking down on immigration is the answer, is damaging, wrong and extremely worrying. At a time of austerity, you only need to look those who are not suffering to know that we’re not all in it together. Last time I checked, the wealth gap was increasing, with few Conservative cabinet ministers using food banks, struggling to stay above the poverty line.
There is a slippery slope here, blaming immigrants, blaming minorities and blaming the poor. And yet, Brand made an extremely important point last night, and one that we often forget: “The burden of proof is on the people with the power.”
If we are to stop calling for change, they must show that the current system is working; they must prove that the status quo is providing, and it is not perpetuating inequality for their personal gain.
Paxman was caught on the hop, with no more argument than “in a democracy, that’s how it works”, when Brand continued to assert that voting in elections is futile.
“Well I don’t think its working very well Jeremy,” replied Russell. Do you know what, neither do I…