UK Elections: To Vote Or Not To Vote, And Russell Brand’s Last-Minute Change Of Heart

If the system is rigged against us, why might Brand be endorsing Labour all of a sudden?


Just days before Britain’s general election, Russell Brand has done a bizarre 360 degree  U-turn on his anti-voting stance to declare public support for the Labour party. Is this a (badly-timed but genuine) change of heart for the common good, or is he just a hypocritical sellout?

It is Brand‘s anti-voting rhetoric that has earned him so much political clout. It is his ability to articulate the anger and hopelessness of ordinary British people at the failures of the system that has made him such an unlikely hero for the common man. Brand has almost ten million Twitter followers, and his book Revolution, in which Brand calls the British public to arms, was a national bestseller. The comedian’s angry monologues on The Trews have inspired a generation of politically aware activists for social justice, regenerating the spark of indignation in thousands who had begun to feel like nobody was fighting their corner.

That’s why the system is terrified of him, that’s why right-wing newspapers detest him, and that’s why everyone wanted to be a guest on his vlog. Brand is influential, and they know that.

Brand’s endorsement of Labour came as a huge shock to many, not least the Tories. Skeptical anarchists who have long since accused Brand of being a ‘schill‘ could be forgiven for wondering how much Miliband’s party are paying him for such a vital boost to their campaign. Thousands of people agree with Brand‘s old perspective; that change cannot be made through the ballot box because the game is rigged. Whoever you vote for, they still get in. In a globalized world controlled by the stock market, what difference can it make to choose blue or red? Why should we trust any of them; what have they ever done for us?

Is this too negative? Too radical? Is there a middle ground? Brand has never thought so, until now. But now is wakey-wakey time, and drastic measures are called for.

Another five years of Tory rule is unthinkable; we simply can’t let it happen. Thousands more public sector workers will be made unemployed (with those who want to keep receiving their pitiful jobseeker’s allowance forced to work for free like criminals, providing slave labour for huge companies and supermarkets who would otherwise need to pay their staff). There would be an increase in zero-hours contracts and, following on from Thatcher’s earlier work, further crushing of trade unions. The Tories are so out of touch with reality and so full of venom for the vulnerable in society that if the Department For Work and Pensions suggested opening Victorian-style workhouses for the poor and infirm, nobody would be surprised any more. The taxing of such ludicrous things as tampons, spare bedrooms and pork pies (while giving more tax breaks to the rich) is something we have the power to stop tomorrow. Fracking, the carving up of our NHS, the privatization of our education system, the continuing rise in homelessness and numbers of Britons using food banks- these are all vital issues. The Green Party are the least likely to shaft us, but the British electoral system means they don’t stand a chance of winning any seats outside of Brighton, even with 13% of the votes. Labour could be our only hope at stopping Cameron’s dismantling of British society.

Explaining why he changed his mind, Brand writes:

“The conservatives are such cinematic villains, the Etonian gits with their Freudian slips; the ‘West Villa United’ supporting, ‘career-defining’, Darth Vader toffs…In the episode of The Trews in which I interviewed Ed Miliband there is no Damascene moment. I did not tumble back in a white beam of enlightened reverie, scales falling, realising that the Westminster machine, with a different pilot will serve ordinary people. We decided to endorse Labour before we approached them for the interview.”

Brand says this was because he was tired of hearing common comments such as, “My brother has MS, if the Tories get in, his independent Living Fund will be cut and he’ll have to go in a home or move into mine…” or “Our drug treatment day care program is being shut down due to cuts…”

He goes on: “In the grand scheme of Revolution these are small problems, I agree, small problems that can be somewhat assuaged with the small solution of getting rid of the Tories. Ultimately what I feel, is that by not removing the Tories, through an unwillingness to participate in the ‘masquerade of democracy’, I was implicitly expecting the most vulnerable people in society to pay the price on my behalf while I pondered alternatives in luxury.”

“The reason I didn’t suggest it sooner is because, twerp that I am, I have hope. I really do believe that real, radical change is possible that the tyranny of giant, transnational corporations can be ended, that ecological melt-down in pursuit of imaginary money can be arrested and reversed, that an ideology that aspires to more than materialism, individualism and profit can be realised and practiced…if [the choice between Labour and Conservative] strikes you as a pitiful choice, more sympathetic I could not be – but some people are facing much worse dilemmas than reneging on a puritanical political stance.”

As much as his timing is terrible (voting registration closed on April 20th), I’m 100% with Brand on this one. Maybe in the next general election, we’ll have a strong, alternative peoples’ party. But for now, with all things considered, we have to make a choice between the best of a bad bunch. A vote for Labour isn’t necessarily a vote for Miliband. Think of it more as a vote against the Nasty Party. Will you be following Brand’s advice tomorrow?

Note: This is opinion and the author’s views are her own. Let us know your own thoughts in the comments.

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