I suppose the nation expected fireworks last night, but I’m afraid I thought the BBC’s Question Time was all a little formulaic. Through no fault of the BBC, but actually because the set up was as follows: one Tory MP reluctantly endorsing Conservative Party policy, one Labour MP saying as much as her boss said in his “big speech” today – nothing – and one sometime comedian turned banker-basher.
Everyone fancied that Mr Brand and I might butt heads, but actually, as we entered the studio, and his personal make-up artist straightened his chest hair for him, I kid you not, I realised that perhaps he might be a bit lighter weight than expected.
For all Mr Brand’s posturing, he was really quite limp. Maybe it was the chapstick that his make-up artist applied to his lips at the last moment, but he didn’t seem to utter a word of sense.
Apparently, according to him and Mary Creagh, I’m some big shot, rich, banker, career-politician. You couldn’t make it up. Everything I’ve railed against: corporatism, arrogance, careerism – they’re now levelling these things at me. And the problem for them is it doesn’t stick, because people don’t buy it.
Mr Brand will swan around and tout long-discredited, even conspiratorial theories about the City of London, and “who owns politicians” – but actually he had very little to give tonight.
I was more interested in the audience’s contributions: which included sensible thinking on immigration, grammar schools, and the National Health Service. Though I assure you we weren’t distributing Ukip manifestos at the entrance!
Who's next? Conservative MPs who could defect to Ukip
Who's next? Conservative MPs who could defect to Ukip
1/8 Chris Kelly
Won Dudley South with majority of 3,856 in 2010 but is standing down next May. Has been wooed by Ukip, which is targeting his seat, but insists he will not join Nigel Farage’s party. Has declined to say why he is leaving Parliament
2/8 Mark Pritchard
Former secretary of the influential Tory 1992 Committee. MP for The Wrekin. Majority 9,450. Photographed with Nigel Farage at an event recently but said it was just a “friendly photo"
3/8 Philip Hollobone
MP for Kettering. Majority 9, 904. He said in 2013: “So many constituencies are now marginal because Ukip is now providing a fourth dynamic into what has previously been a three-party dynamic. I think we could end up with a situation where in selected seats, where the Conservative candidate or member of Parliament is in favour of leaving the EU, they would endorse him in those seats"
4/8 David Nuttall
MP for Bury North. Majority 2,243. Outspoken right-winger. Has said it would be “beneficial” if the Tories and Ukip could agree a “common programme” in order to unite the right in British politics
5/8 Nadine Dorries
MP for Mid Bedfordshire. Majority 15,152. Lost Tory whip after appearing on ITV’s “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here,” but later reinstated. Has said her constituents some constituents feel a "huge amount of empathy with Ukip". Hinted at standing on a joint ticket but denied she will defect
6/8 Jacob Rees-Mogg
MP for Somerset North East. Majority 4,914. Independent-minded like Douglas Carswell. Has called for an electoral pact between Tories and Ukip. “There are many members of Ukip who are very close to the Conservative Party and there are many Conservatives to whom Ukip looks favourably,” he said in May
7/8 Gordon Henderson
MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey. Majority 12,383. Wants Britain to leave the EU and admits he has been “sounded out” by Ukip. But insists the party has “no principles,” saying: “I’d sooner lose than be a turncoat”
8/8 Peter Bone
MP for Wellingborough. Majority 11,787. Independent-minded backbencher who hates the Coalition. Has said: “Somehow the Conservatives and Ukip have got to work together and have some sort of [electoral] pact or accord”
I truly believe, as I said on the panel tonight, that most people would love access to a grammar school for their children. Following the recent Ofsted report that revealed that hundreds of thousands of children in Britain are being let down by a failing education system – it is time for an injection of some sense we learned a long time ago: grammar schools work.
One lady in the audience stated that she was bullied at a grammar school in Kent, because she was from the Midlands, and most people at her school were very middle class. It’s no wonder, given that most of the grammar schools across the country have been closed or converted, and now the only people who can afford to uproot and move nearer to one, in Kent, are middle class people with a little extra cash to spare. If you had a grammar school or two in every town in Britain, you’d actually get a lot more diversity in terms of the socio-economic background of the children who attend.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? Britain has swathes of talent within that is effectively being squandered by the policies of Labour and the Conservative parties. Our future is at risk because, instead of dealing with issues like wage compression, education, and our illogical membership of the European Union, we’re stuck with politicians tinkering around the edges. You can’t put a cigarette paper between the two, big, vested interest ridden parties nowadays. And that’s why, I think, people are attracted to Ukip.
But it’s also, probably, why people are attracted to Mr Brand’s “I’ll rant and rave but never stand for parliament myself” politics. Don’t vote. Don’t engage. What’s the point? You can see the logic. But morally, you can’t really justify it. You want change? Don’t bother to campaign for it. You loathe the establishment class? Spoil your ballot.
No.This isn’t the way politics is done in this country. And I’ll be damned if a chest-hair obsessed Hollywood type tries to tell us it is.
There’s evidently a major choice for people ahead of the General Election in May next year, and, as ever, the Tories and Labour are trying to convince you it is all about the Tories and Labour. It’s not. The political landscape is changing in this country. Instead of one party that “weaponises” the NHS as a political tool (Labour) and another party that really, basically doesn’t have a policy either way (Conservative), we have other options this time around.
While I don’t buy much of this “rise of the Green Party” rhetoric, they are slightly more prominent in the media than they were five years ago. So are the SNP.
But if you really have had enough of the political elite. If you really have had enough of poor policy making, unchecked migration, unavailable school places, immense strain on the national services, our EU membership, our extraordinarily large foreign aid budget and more… then you don’t have to vote that way anymore.
But I know what you’re really reading this to hear. And that’s my take on Russell Brand. The leader of the revolution. The messiah of hipster, new media. The doyen of stock statements and half-funny jokes. Well I’ll tell you what I found out tonight: the messiah has feet of clay, and the revolution is not occurring on Mr Brand’s side – it’s happening with UKIP, and it’s happening fast.