Joan Smith: Spare us the vacuous talk and go back to Hollywood

To some people, Russell Brand's adolescent waffle sound likes informed opinion – but his pride in refusing to vote is foolish and dangerous

Share

Just for a moment, I'd like you to picture a meeting in a town hall where a local political party is selecting its candidate for the next general election. In comes a fast-talking, lank-haired celebrity who has a ready answer when he's asked why he wants to go into politics: "When I was asked to stand for Parliament, I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me," he smirks. I don't think you would have to be a passionate feminist to conclude that this guy is (a) a sexist idiot and (b) a narcissist whose ideas about politics are likely to be only slightly more coherent than those of a 13-year-old boy.

Neither of those things, it has to be said, are an impediment to guest-editing a political magazine or appearing on BBC2's Newsnight. The quote I've ascribed to an imaginary candidate is a slight rewording of Russell Brand's explanation for his decision to edit an issue of the New Statesman; the "beautiful woman" who asked him is, I assume, the paper's associate editor and current Brand love interest (for want of a better phrase), Jemima Khan. The comedian repeated the line on Newsnight, which not for the first time mistook a scrap between two well-known blokes for a grown-up political debate.

It should be obvious that Brand gets this exposure for two reasons. One is that he's a canny self-publicist who knows how to come up with a good one-liner; the other is that he reflects a widely-shared loathing of politicians. Brand uses an article in the New Statesman to dismiss them out of hand, claiming that the current political system is "nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites". I must admit to feeling some amusement when I hear a man with an estimated personal fortune of £10m calling for a "massive" redistribution of wealth. But Brand's refusal to vote because of his "weariness and exhaustion" in the face of the "lies, treachery and deceit of the political class" would be more convincing if he had ever engaged in any sort of political effort himself. (I'm afraid that impulsively abandoning a shopping trip with a stylist to join a riot doesn't count.)

Brand knows what he's against but he's barely considered any alternatives, which is one of the reasons he got angry with Jeremy Paxman on Wednesday evening. All he can come up with is some adolescent waffle about "revolution" and a decidedly ahistorical view of earlier cultures: "If like the native people of America we believed God was in the soil, what would our intuitive response be to the implementation of fracking?" Personally, it's not the god in the soil I'm worried about so much as earth tremors.

When Brand talks about the environment, he sounds like Prince Charles, that scion of a privileged dynasty whom we are not allowed to vote out of office. They were both at it last week, saying blindingly obvious things about the survival of the planet without much in the way of practical suggestions to secure it. Indeed, Brand's spirit guide seems to be Fotherington-Thomas, the Ronald Searle character who skips around St Custard's exclaiming "Hello trees, hello sky". In Brand's case we should add "Hello river", since he thinks there would be less pollution if we revered rivers "like the Celtic people". The past was apparently full of these happy agrarian folk, living in societies which were "socialist, egalitarian and integrated". (Just don't mention the Aztecs, I guess.)

I wouldn't take any of this nonsense seriously were it not for the fact Brand's anti-establishment rant strikes a chord with individuals who share his distaste for voting. As someone who has knocked on thousands of doors and delivered thousands of political leaflets, I don't have much time for people who complain endlessly but don't value democracy sufficiently to engage in it. Nor am I impressed by the foolish notion that voting doesn't make any difference; if Labour had won in 2010, we wouldn't now have the bedroom tax, the dismantling of the NHS, a cut in the top rate of tax or the destruction of thousands of public sector jobs.

Thank you, Mr Brand, that will be all. Go back to your lovely home in the Hollywood Hills and leave politics to people who aren't afraid of difficult ideas and hard work. You're one celebrity, I'm afraid, who's more idiot than savant.

politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
SEEN graffiti Wonder Woman  

Warner Bros’ bold stance on Wonder Woman opens the door for Hollywood evolution

Matthew James
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us