vote labour? why has russell brand changed his mind

Has Russell made his peace with the ballot box?

by Dan Kilpatrick
05 May 2015, 4:15pm

Oh Russell, where did it all go wrong? What happened to your glorious revolution? Isn't it us against them? Aren't politicians all the same?

Russell Brand is for turning. The bloke who's spent the past 18 months telling you not to vote is now telling you to vote Labour; to vote for the guy who 'went to the same primary school as Boris'. You WHAT Russell? You gone soft?

Brand's 'no-vote' ball came to an abrupt halt this week. It started rolling in October 2013 after an impassioned one-on-one with Paxman on Newsnight -Brand preaching revolution, Paxman amused and bemused - and picked up speed a year later with the publication of his book, Revolution, and another fired-up interview with Paxman's successor, Evan Davis.

The comedian's argument was simple: the current system is flawed; there is no hope of sufficient change in the existing paradigm, so don't vote. Don't be complicit. Don't participate until there's radical change, until you can make a real difference.

"Don't bother voting. Stop voting. Stop pretending. Wake up. Why vote? It's not going to make any difference. We know that already," Brand shot at Paxman. Brand's latest comments - delivered on his YouTube channel, Trews, following an interview with Labour leader Ed Miliband - are somewhat different.

"What I heard Ed Miliband say is that if we speak, he will listen. So on that basis, I think we've got no choice but to take decisive action to end the danger of the Conservative party," said Brand, perched on the end of his queen size.

"You've got to vote Labour, you've got to get the Conservative party out of government in this country so that we can begin community-led activism, so that we can be heard continually."

This shift has been hailed by the left as a dramatic election-week victory for Miliband and dismissed by the Conservatives as a 'joke', a hypocritical u-turn. It's neither.

Brand's change of heart is less a u-turn, more a drawn out six-point turn, the aggressive thrusting of a gearstick, crunching of tires and inching of boot and bonnet when someone's parked too close to your mum at Sainsbury's.

It started with a subtle and gradual change in Brand's rhetoric away from an anti-system / anti-politician stance towards an anti-Tory stance, peaked with the Miliband interview and concluded with his endorsement of Labour.

It's been coming, and the 'MiliBrand' love-in seems like an excuse, rather than a reason, for Russell's change of heart. "How can I backtrack on my vociferous anti-voting stance," you can almost hear Brand cry. "I'll pretend an interview with Ed Miliband changed my mind." You're not fooling us, Russell.

Miliband's visit to Shoreditch may prove decisive for Labour's hopes of forming the next UK government, but the interview itself hardly felt cataclysmic. We preferred the fired-up Russell. Russell the interrupting dog. Beads flailing, fingers pointing, rhetoric flowing. Not this complicit Russell, sitting too close to one of them (it was awkwardly close), feeding him leading questions and nodding along like a Labradoodle in need of a trim.

Brand's endorsement is the end of personal journey, a mature realisation, from a man who's compared himself to Jesus, that he is only human. At the risk of sounding patronising, ickle Wussell is gwowing up.

Just because the MiliBrand interview was a sham, it doesn't mean it was desperately hypocritical, however. Pragmatic, yes. Shameful, not really. At no point has Brand stated that he'll vote for Labour or anyone else (and I have it on good authority that he's done one to Tuscany this week to avoid the election melee, suggesting he won't practice what he's preached). His endorsement is simply an acknowledgment that we're stuck with the current system, so we might as well participate and vote for the party that'll give us the best chance of change, and a man who's promised the biggest social and economic reforms since Thatcher. The lesser of two evils maybe - in Russell's eyes anyway.

So, will his endorsement make a difference? Of course it will. The MiliBrand video already has 1.75m views, whereas the Tory equivalent - the nauseating 'Day in the Life of David Cameron' by SunNation - has a mere 114k. How the Tories could do a with a Russell Brand (no, Sol Campbell, you treacherous fantasist, it's not you) - someone engaging and intelligent to explain that Cameron is not as demagogic as he seems, just a posh man who, rightly or wrongly, believes the best way to help the poor is to have them help themselves. Even UKIP have Joey Essex…

Russell Brand has given a voice to disaffected and disenfranchised youth and, ironically, his no vote stance has surely had a significantly impact on pushing young people into politics. Between mid-March and the deadline, nearly 2.3m registered, over 700k of them 24 or younger. His apparently newfound belief in Miliband is certain to sway some floating voters.

There's a problem though. "By the time somebody comes along that you think it's worth voting for, it may be too late." How poignant Paxman's repost has proved to be. Russell's endorsement of Labour came a week after registration to vote had closed. Oh Russell, couldn't you have listened to Jeremy as well as Ed?


Text Dan Kilpatrick

General Election
Russell Brand
Think Pieces
the trews
Ed Miliband