Russell Brand's Labour endorsement is a stunning piece of hypocrisy

I like Brand and I agree with a lot of what he campaigns for. But an endorsement of tactical voting is to sanction the rot, not to fix it

Lee Williams
Tuesday 05 May 2015 17:49 BST
Question time: Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband on his YouTube show
Question time: Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband on his YouTube show

It’s great that Russell Brand is finally encouraging people to vote, but issuing his call to arms after the voting registration deadline was hardly a piece of tactical genius.

The last chance to register to vote was April 20th, so many of those apathetic non-voters who Brand hopes to galvanise will now be beating their heads in vain against the bars of their self-imposed electoral cages. It’s an image that must have David Cameron sniggering as he rolls up his sleeves this morning. A joke indeed.

But it’s not the only thing wrong with Brand’s decision to endorse voting Labour. While I agree with his basic anti-Tory sentiments, I can’t agree with his message that we should pursue the tired old method of negative tactical voting to get the party we don’t want out, rather than the party we do want in.

For someone who rails against the system so vociferously, it is quite a stunning piece of hypocrisy to back the most worn-out and cynical aspect of that rotten old structure – tactical voting. It’s this kind of voting that led to the two-party system and the apathy and disaffection with politics that spawned Brand in the first place. To endorse that system is to sanction the rot, not try to fix it.

It’s not the only Labour policy Brand’s kidding himself about. If you watch the interview you can see the moment where he seems to fall for Ed’s chatter and the Milibrand bromance springs to life. It’s the point when Miliband talks about politics being rooted in communities. Brand jumps on this and runs with it for the rest of the interview which quickly turns from dialogue to typical Brand monologue.

Suddenly he has taken Miliband’s desire to see more devolved local government as a sign that he will lead a crusade against the banks and other big corporations that suppress democracy. But Miliband has been at absolute pains in the past to stay on the side of corporations after attacks in the House of Commons suggesting that a Labour government would alienate big business. Labour also supports TTIP – the biggest corporate power grab at the expense of democratic institutions this century.

At points Miliband tries to butt in, especially – notably – when Brand talks about taking on powerful corporate institutions, but he is unable to get a word in edgeways. By the time Brand’s rant is over he merely settles for a “thank you” and a handshake, perhaps feeling that it’s best to just shut up and take the endorsement.

But is this in itself a worrying sign of a Prime Minister who would be too easily railroaded by strong characters? Replace Brand for Sturgeon and you have the scenario that will worry many people into not voting Labour.

I like Russell Brand and I agree with a lot, probably most, of what he campaigns for. As a lefty he has also highlighted an issue that I’ve grappled with personally – despite being a committed Green Party voter I have seriously considered voting Labour because of my strong conviction that the Tories must go.

Unlike Brand I came to the decision not to vote tactically. Politics has become more vibrant, more energised and more diverse precisely because people are voting for alternatives, not for the lesser of two evils. We need more of this, not less.

“More democracy!” as Brand rightly says at the end of the Trews Miliband special. It’s just a pity he’s advocating the opposite.

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