Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Thoughts on Russell Brand and the Upcoming Election // My Voting Stance

Everybody knows my opinion on Russell Brand - I think he's great, and I probably agree with about 95% of what he says, where politics is concerned. I've always admired his anti-vote stance, as one of the only influential public figures I've seen to stand up to our (arguably) unrepresentative electoral system/government, which many of us (especially young people) feel disillusioned by. This week, I, and other viewers of his online show The Trews, were shocked to hear him now explicitly endorsing the Labour government. At first I didn't believe it! Then, of course, I watched his latest video. As I stated in my last political post, 'Capitalism and Voting,' which I wrote exactly two weeks before election day, I was closer to voting for Labour at that point than any other party. I just didn't think they would implement their policies. So why did Russell Brand suddenly decide they are worth his (and your) vote?

What probably started this chain of events was Ed Miliband's wise decision to meet Russell Brand for an online interview (see here) - wise because Russell has millions of followers, thousands of subscribers, and a wider audience to express his opinion to than any politician. He always expresses his disdain for Rupert Murdoch - who controls a large portion of British media - but ironically I think his influence over the area he controls (largely, public opinion) is similar. Russell speaks for working class people rather than the rich, and discusses problems that exist in our country with what appears to be honesty. People listen to him. Many have begged him to stand for Parliament before, but he refused, saying he's a "narcissist" and that he worries he "would turn into one of them [a corrupt, money-grabbing politician]." Everyone knows about Russell's struggle with addiction, and I really do understand where he's coming from when he says he thinks the power would overcome him. Something powerful that Ed Miliband said during the interview was that "[he's] not looking for euphoria", which I think many people respected him for. But, where I gained respect for Miliband, I found I was losing a bit (but only a tiny sliver) of respect for Russell for abandoning his no-vote stance; in doing so, changing his mind about his life-long passion to resist the traditional means of voting.

But after I thought about it a bit more, I realised why it had to be done... and I think the Conservatives saw it, too. In one of Cameron's pre-election speeches, he called Russell "a joke," resorting to simple derogatory statements to convince the population that everything the man says is invalid. You know what's horrible about this? David Cameron is our Prime Minister! Yet he is insulting anyone who has a different opinion to him. He should be setting an example. I know that being called "a joke" isn't the worst thing in the world, but still, Cameron is the leader of our country and surely he should be treating the people within it with respect? Call me crazy.

Perhaps to retaliate to Mr. Cameron's catty comment, Russell then posted his final video of the 'Politics Week,' in which he urged his entire online community, with the exception of the residents of Brighton, to vote for Labour. Not so much of a joke now, eh? I'd be lying if I said I thought the only reason Russell did this was to get back at Cameron for a bitchy comment in a speech, though. He has always expressed a dislike for the Conservatives due to their ties with big business. He doesn't believe that the Tories will ever persecute powerful corporations for their wrongdoing. He believes they will continue to allow the rich to tax evade, while homelessness is ever increasing. And I think, like a lot of us, he sees something quite human in Ed Miliband. And maybe we do just have to take a chance on him. According to this post on The Guardian, 700,000 young people under the age of 24 have registered to vote this year. Who do you think they're more likely to listen to? A tired old red-faced Cameron declaring someone "a joke" or Russell, with a massive social media following? And with numbers like that, we young people actually have the power to change something.

People often wonder why everyone pays so much attention to Russell's opinion but I think that Owen Jones puts it perfectly, in that: "Brand is sometimes bizarrely portrayed as the cause of voter disengagement ... but actually he is a symptom." Many people feel the same way - if they didn't, why would they subscribe? Take this picture I found on Twitter for example, which really swayed me into following my heart and not worrying too much about my vote. Is it only one vote after all, and it can't make that much difference unless lots of other people agree with me. Therefore I cannot and will not feel wholly responsible for the consequences, as I feared I would do before.

To be perfectly honest, I don't think I would even be engaged in politics right now if it weren't for Russell Brand's videos. And, to me, it's a joke that someone can dismiss the power and influence he has. I'll certainly be taking a stroll up to the polling station before college on Thursday. If you want to watch me respond to political 'happenings' as they occur, you can follow me @meaghanbethany; where I've been tweeting about the Brand vs. Cameron sit-yee-ation all week.

G'bye for now, and thanks for taking a read.

Meaghan x

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