We need to embrace Russell Brand – he’s the new political messiah

Cow votingHe’s not going to go away. After all, celebs rarely do, even after their stardom has faded. My instinct is to ignore him. But I’ve talked to young friends. And they tell me my instinct is wrong.

They are saying to me that even if I can’t embrace the anarchic politics of Russell Brand, I should at least try to understand why he is so in tune with the next generation of non-voters.

This whole fuss started with Brand editing an edition of the New Statesman, then throwing Paxo into a state of complexity on Newsnight. Our media, bored to its teeth with the professional dullness of today’s politicians, drooled on every rebellious word.

Yesterday, Brand was back on ebullient form in the Guardian:

I’ve had an incredible week since I spoke from the heart, some would say via my arse, on Paxman. I’ve had slaps on the back, fist bumps, cheers and hugs while out and about, cock-eyed offers of political power from well intentioned chancers and some good ol’ fashioned character assassinations in the papers.

It was another opportunity for Brand to set out why our current model of democracy is just so irrelevant:

As long as the priorities of those in government remain the interests of big business, rather than the people they were elected to serve, the impact of voting is negligible and it is our responsibility to be more active if we want real change.

I’d really like to dismiss all of this as nothing more than typical Brandian showmanship. I would do so if it were not for my younger friends.

We were sat outside the local brewery, sipping beers, and my friends smoking rollups.

“What Brand said was right,” Molly said. [Names are changed.] “It doesn’t f*cking matter who we vote for. They’re only interested in themselves. How much money they rake in or can give to their bollocks rich business friends.”

Matt agreed. “They don’t care a f*ck about us. Brands right. Voting is shit.”

Mark chipped in. “It’s fraud. F*cking fraud. Voting.”

I’ve heard this negative attitude from young people here in Ludlow many times before. They often tell me they never vote. But this time I had grounds to object.

“Hey guys. You all said you voted for me!” [In the May local council elections.]

“Yeh. But you’re different. We all voted for you,” Molly said.

There is something in this contradiction that I haven’t yet unpacked. I am quite happy to be described as middle-aged boring old fart. I aim to help people, but I’m not different from any other wannabe minor politician. Having got nowhere with trying to get my friends to explain this conundrum, I bummed the price of a pint and we returned to Brand.

“We hate politics and politicians,” Matt said. “Brands right. We’ve been shat on. Tuition fees, jobs, crap pay.”

Matt and his friends are at one with Brand who said:

The less privileged among us are already living in the apocalypse, the thousands of street sleepers in our country, the refugees and the exploited underclass across our planet daily confront what we would regard as the end of the world. No money, no home, no friends, no support, no hand of friendship reaching out, just acculturated and inculcated condemnation.

For the record, two of my three bar friends are in full time, albeit low paid, employment. The third does baby duty while his partner works flat out at the checkouts at the store across the road. But they still feel that politicians dump on them. They still think they are the “exploited underclass”.

As we talked on it became clear that Brand’s missionary zeal isn’t entirely consonant with the views of my beer group. In his Guardian article, Brand protests that the lack of difference between the main parties matters:

The reason these coalitions are so easily achieved is that the distinctions between the parties are insignificant.

But party politics is irrelevant to my friends. I also find that they are not that bothered about what Brand actually said. It’s his tone that resonates. It’s the “up yours” to the Camerons, Cleggs and Milibands of the world that counts for them.

Brand matters. He can’t be snubbed. My friends were not talking about Clegg, Cameron or Miliband. They were talking about Brand, a man who speaks the language of young disenfranchised voters. It’s a language that conventional politics and grey suited politicians ignore.

We can’t afford to ignore Brand’s way of speaking. We can’t afford to disenfranchise young voters. Brand has something we don’t have. But how on earth do we harness his anarchy?

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem living in Shropshire, and a former editor for Lib Dem Voice

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47 Comments

  • Can’t we ignore him because he’s a misogynist, borderline rape apologist boor?

    Mo, of course not, silly me.

  • David Evans 6th Nov '13 - 3:40pm

    So Russell Brand says “The reason these coalitions are so easily achieved is that the distinctions between the parties are insignificant.”

    Labour adopted the Thatcherite mantra “Greed is fine” from the moment it chose Blair and lived and breathed it throughout its years in government. The problem is we (and by that I mean our leaders) moved to it almost as seamlessly from Nick’s “An end to broken promises” PPB to the tuition fees fiasco and onwards.

    We have no-one but our Nick to blame.

  • Andy Boddington 6th Nov '13 - 3:47pm

    @Jennie

    Of course, but people don’t. And when they don’t we need to think why how someone like Brand matters

  • Andy: possibly because people keep on talking about him? Like in this article, for instance. And, admittedly, the one I am half-way through typing on my own blog.

  • Actually, I’ve always thought not voting was just lazy, indifferent protest. If you were really keen to make your voice heard, then you’d actually go along and spoil your paper. If the total number of spoilt papers were to exceed the number of votes cast for the winner – not impossible, particularly in a local election – then how would that be seen?

    I would put to Brand the same point Paxman considered after he didn’t vote – what right do you have to complain about the government if you didn’t vote? Actually, I’m more concerned about some of the things Paxman has been saying recently which might have gone against his obligation for impartiality (or is he just trying to talk himself out of a job?)

  • It doesn't add up... 6th Nov '13 - 4:24pm

    He’s not the Messiah…he’s just a very naughty boy.

  • Paul in Twickenham 6th Nov '13 - 4:28pm

    Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the stand-up comedian Stewart Lee’s new show. Now Stewart Lee is known for his er.. frank critique of the work of other stand-ups. He described the interview between Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman as being “like watching a monkey fling its own at a fog horn”.

    @Keith Legg : I assume you are referring to Jeremy Paxman’s comment in Radio Times where he described the student fee pledge as “the most blatant lie in recent political history”. While there are other contenders for that title, the student fee pledge has to be right up there. Stating that fact is hardly a matter of partisanship.

    Personally I can’t stand Russell Brand, although I thought his riff on Hugo Boss being supplier of uniforms to the SS during the ’30’s was very entertaining. But he is scratching the surface of a massive problem that faces this country: an ill-defined sense of alienation, resentment and disenfranchisement that seems to have become endemic, and which none of the political parties appear to have any clue how to address.

  • Brand can only be described as speaking for disaffected youth because he is spreading the disaffection. He is not saying anything that the activist on the street doesn’t already know, so why are we being asked to pay him any heed? Brand is driven by a need for attention; once he’s tapped out this vein, he’ll find another issue to be outrageous about.

    And I’ll still be ignoring him.

  • Andy Boddington 6th Nov '13 - 6:01pm

    I refer you all to the last ten minutes of PM tonight. It is worth listening to the listeners’ comments.

    Brand might be disliked. He might be arrogant and much worse. But he hits a resonance that few others do. We can’t duck that by disliking him or ignoring him. He is cutting an agenda that cannot be wished away or airbrushed out of politics.

  • As I said the last time you posted about voter disaffection. What do you expect when politics is always portrayed as cynical and negative? Just read any BBC article on government policy. Paragraph 3 is always: “And Labour say this is the worst. idea. ever.” Ok, then. Nothing will ever change so long as the business of government is an adversarial dog-eat-dog power game. I guess nothing will ever change.

  • For those that think that NOT voting is a cop-out, I ask this. What if you believe that the red/yellow/blue thing is a pointless, smoke and mirrors fiasco, which is totally broken, and irredeemably so ?
    What then? Who is worth walking down to the voting station for then.?
    Red = pre election promises, post election reality.
    Yellow = pre election promises, post election reality.
    Blue = pre election promises, post election reality.
    Cynical about our political system?. Yes and you seriously wonder why?.

  • @Caractacus

    “The trouble is Andy, is that Nick Clegg is the symbol of all that is bad about the political system. The tuition fees u-turn was catastrophic.”

    Which bit of not having enough money and only having one eleventh of the MPs in parliament to implement the policy have you still not come to terms with? The tuition fees policy was forced on Nick Clegg by the party and given the realities of the situation he wasn’t able either to back out of it or to deliver it.

    As for blaming him for the failure of AV or Lords reform, that really takes the biscuit.

    I think you need to look at the parties occupying the other ten elevenths of the House of Commons if you want to see who is to blame for that. With two thirds of our votes in 2010 effectively being stolen and given to the other parties, expecting us to change the political system while the two party establishment is using its full collective powers against the Lib Dems is hardly either realistic or reasonable, is it?

  • A Social Liberal 6th Nov '13 - 9:40pm

    RC

    The coalition had enough money to reduce the top rate of tax, it has enough money to ignore the tax avoidance of a multitude of corporations and it has enough money to force people out of social housing with the bedroom tax and into private accomodation which costs more in housing benefits.

  • Richard Dean 6th Nov '13 - 10:36pm

    He’s not new.
    People have been touting self-importance and simplistic solutions for ever.

    He’s not a messiah.
    Simplicity is important, but ignoring real complexities doesn’t.

    But he’s rich!
    Well, that’s what happens to “new messiahs”, isn’t it? The few who don’t end up as scarp metal.

  • Nick Barlow 7th Nov '13 - 12:07am

    Voter turnouts have dropped lots over the last twenty years, with young people especially unlikely to vote – how has this abandoning the system helped them, as Brand seems to think it would?

    And as Jennie says, everyone conveniently ignoring the skeevier parts of his character to pretend his sixth form Trot ramblings are somehow insightful is particularly unedifying.

  • David Evans 7th Nov '13 - 10:17am

    @Caractacus Sadly your analysis of Nick’s culpability for the Tuition Fees and the AV fiascos are plain for all to see. Sadly there are still too many who want to make excuses for him.

  • chris j smart 7th Nov '13 - 10:40am

    Andy B. has it right. You may not like the messenger, or how he says, or indeed the content of the message, but the message may contain a grain of truth which might be worth examining in more detail. I am surprised that more than 50% of the comments attack the messenger and the message rather than examine the possible reasons for it.
    Caracatus is right to point out the failings of our parliamentary approach.
    When Mr Clegg publicly signed that pledge and claimed that he would not be party to broken promises these young folk (and me) stupidly believed him. When he then said in effect “grow up, you don’t really believe that in the real world you can stand by your promises and principles” he lost me and it seems a considerable number of party members and potential voters. Revolution may be the wrong approach but I can sympathize with the underlying frustration .

  • AC Trussell 7th Nov '13 - 11:08am

    I think that Brand’s passion about all the worlds problems- without any answers at all, is a symptom of our “information society”.
    All this knowledge leads to seeing more problems and people feel powerless to change anything.
    He obviously live’s – like all anarchists- in a “us & them” world. It’s a bit sad for him to think that not voting will be a “poke in the eye” to the “nasty man”.
    I wish he would get off his arse and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!. He could join the Lib/Dem’s and help make some policies to change the future.

  • AC Trussell 7th Nov '13 - 11:14am

    Lib/Dem’s are the students savior! There were two other alternatives; £12,000 or no limit!

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Nov '13 - 2:01pm

    AC Trussell

    Lib/Dem’s are the students savior! There were two other alternatives; £12,000 or no limit!

    There was another alternative – keep the subsidy for university tuition, but save money by slashing the number of university places.

  • AC Trussell 7th Nov '13 - 3:11pm

    Matthew Huntbach
    “There was another alternative – keep the subsidy for university tuition, but save money by slashing the number of university places”
    Was it Labour or Conservatives offering that one? I remember one saying “£12,000” and the other saying “no limit”!
    Without Lib/Dems in coalition it would be one or the other, now.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Nov '13 - 3:13pm

    Andy Boddington’s young friends

    “What Brand said was right,” Molly said. [Names are changed.] “It doesn’t f*cking matter who we vote for. They’re only interested in themselves. How much money they rake in or can give to their bollocks rich business friends.”

    Sure, but how do the kids know all this? Are they experts in politics, or have they just picked it up because that’s what people say? If you read the right-wing press, you will find this “politicians are all bad, only in it for themselves” message CONSTANTLY being pushed out. It filters through and the kids pick it up and think they’re being radical for repeating it, just as they think they’re being radical when they follow the latest manufactured pop music star who’s been given a “rebel” image by the rich business people that run things.

    The reality is that it’s in the interest of the political right to push this message for two reasons:

    1) It fits in with their “small state” approach, i.e. politics and politicians are all bad, so let’s privatise everything

    2) It means the people who would vote for the political left or become active in the political left are instead doing nothing and so the right wins elections by default.

  • Brand is no messiah. All he is saying in his own inimitable and over-the-top way is that the present system of democracy in this country is broken. He doesn’t pretend to have the answers but he does point out the central problem (quoting from the post) “As long as the priorities of those in government remain the interests of big business, rather than the people they were elected to serve, the impact of voting is negligible and it is our responsibility to be more active if we want real change.”

    Brand points very clearly to a central part of the problem – government has come to serve big business and not the people. He’s absolutely right about that.

    He is also specifically calling for activism to change things but seeing a disconnect between voting and outcomes. ‘Fraud’ as Andy’s young friends put it. Again, I agree with Brand on this.

    I suspect there is a divide here. On the one hand there are the (broadly) older folk who, I suspect, find themselves in a relatively comfortable position – already owning a house worth £££ and with a substantial pension pot – who feel the system has more or less worked for them. (Older folk who don’t have these advantages probably just aren’t articulate enough to be visible). On the other hand are younger folk without those advantages and for whom there aren’t even proper jobs. Is it surprising that they are angry with a system that’s failed them? Absolutely not. Can the system continue on the present course without an explosion of some sort? I think not.

    So, there are problems – that’s normal even if the scale isn’t. But what I find particularly depressing is that liberals, who should be leading the charge for change, are AWOL. Since their foundation the Liberal Democrats’ highest ambition has been to join the political establishment after so many decades in the wilderness. Far too much Lib Demmery has actually been no more than manoeuvring to achieve some measure of power on the national stage – hence the endless fascination with hung Parliaments. Working out a strategy for national revival has been an altogether secondary consideration. And, when someone like Brand calls out the political establishment, its response is to circle the waggons, write him off as an anarchist or similar and carry on regardless as evidenced by several comments on this thread.

    Do the Lib Dems have the ambition to start representing the voters or are they content to be swept away by the tide?

  • daft ha'p'orth 7th Nov '13 - 4:25pm

    @AC Trussell 7th Nov ’13 – 3:11pm
    “Matthew Huntbach:“There was another alternative – keep the subsidy for university tuition, but save money by slashing the number of university places”Was it Labour or Conservatives offering that one? I remember one saying “£12,000″ and the other saying “no limit”!”

    Yes, you have hit the nail on the head there. That is exactly why Russell’s ‘they’re all the bloody same, don’t bother’ message resonates: because in the real world outside of the party political, there weren’t two alternatives, or three alternatives, but a whole spectrum of possible approaches, weren’t there? An idealist might want to see a reasonable number of reasonable elected representatives thoughtfully discussing the full spectrum of possibilities, weighing up an appropriate selection of reasonable options and choosing the best of them. What we actually got was the tuition-fees equivalent of the Futurama three-cent titanium tax sketch (‘I respect my opponent, I think he’s a good man… but quite frankly, I agree with everything he just said’). That transformation of previously outspoken politicians to refugees hiding in the party-political ‘there is no alternative’ safe zone was never going to be seen as credible.

    I’ve seen some pretty thoughtful discussion in the wake of the Brand episode. Personally I’d like to see more opportunities for increased independence in expressed thought and opinion on the part of decision-makers, but goodness knows how that could happen.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Nov '13 - 4:38pm

    GF

    Since their foundation the Liberal Democrats’ highest ambition has been to join the political establishment after so many decades in the wilderness.

    There’s always been a divide in the party between those who see it that way, and those who want it the way you say it should be. Please do not write off all LibDems as if we all fall on the former side. The problem throughout is that the press – including the supposedly left-wing Guardian always writes up the LibDems as if it is only the former, always puts their case, always supports them against the radicals in internal debate e.g. see the Guardian‘s support for Clegg in the leadership contest.

  • daft ha'p'orth 7th Nov '13 - 4:41pm

    @Matthew Huntbach 7th Nov ’13 – 3:13pm
    “The reality is that it’s in the interest of the political right to push this message for two reasons:
    1) It fits in with their “small state” approach, i.e. politics and politicians are all bad, so let’s privatise everything”
    Interesting; is there a correlation between belief that politics and politicians are bad and the belief that services should be offered only by private companies? I’m quite serious, I’d like to know the answer. I’d suspect that those who subscribe to this type of view also take the view that private contractors are profiteering/untrustworthy. Maybe someone’s tested this?

    “2) It means the people who would vote for the political left or become active in the political left are instead doing nothing and so the right wins elections by default.”
    Currently, yes, it would mean that. Someone needs to come up with a constructive and attractive direction in which to channel all this rage, at which point it would become an immense disadvantage for the political right. Yes, voting is going to have to come into there somewhere, so that someone would have to find a means to encourage the disaffected to vote. Short of the charisma of a Barack Obama(!) or a ‘revolution'(!) maybe that means a new party or a new structure for an existing party. Or maybe in truth it just won’t happen and this country will just get darker and dingier ad nauseam. But it might. Though Brand isn’t likely to be the guy who figures out how to get the disaffected out to vote, he has got a few peoples’ attention, and maybe someone will do something useful with that before they lose interest and go back to cat photos on Facebook.

  • Matthew Huntbach – Yes, indeed there has always been that divide with many Lib Dems on the side of the angels and I wouldn’t want anyone to construe what I said as meaning otherwise. I have been a member of this party since the beginning and that is why I stick around.

  • @ daft ha’p’orth

    Yes Matthew is right about this. There is a very respectable liberal (and common sense) position that the state sector should be small and efficient as opposed to the big and bloated favoured by vested interests including not just unions but many top civil servants (although I’m sure they would deny it if challenged).

    But small and efficient is relative. It should mean properly resourced with adequate people and finances to do the job necessary but without the empire building and mission creep that afflicts large bureaucracies (and I’ve seen close up a classic case in the private sector – this isn’t just a public sector problem).

    Contrast that to the position of the hard right. Reagan was perhaps clearest. He worked to popularise the notions that the most frightening words in the language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” and that government should be made small enough that eventually it could be drowned in a bathtub. Along with this went the argument that markets are the only way of delivering efficiency by virtue of the supposed ability to organise resources optimally while subject to competition. Under duress proponents of this view will admit that markets can sometimes fail but actually there whole position is all absolute drivel with no intellectual basis whatsoever. In fact, in many sectors markets (in any meaningful sense of the word) don’t even exist and where they do they habitually fail or are captured by powerful vested interests – energy companies being a case in point – and they can’t be relied on to deliver optimal outcomes for the nation as a whole unless steered in productive and socially useful directions.

    But the hard right doesn’t want people to think that markets might fail or be less than God-like. As long as the populace can be blagged that they are infallible then there can – by definition – be nothing wrong and the looting and profiteering can continue. And the smaller the public sector is made the more services can be delivered into the clutches of their cronies.

    The lived experience of all this self-serving nonsense from the right is what Russell Brand is articulating. That is what someone must oppose. I want that to be the Lib Dems but so far there is little sign of that; we need a revolution in the Party first.

  • AC Trussell 7th Nov '13 - 5:55pm

    daft ha’p’orth
    “Yes, you have hit the nail on the head there. That is exactly why Russell’s ‘they’re all the bloody same, don’t bother’ message resonates: because in the real world outside of the party political, there weren’t two alternatives, or three alternatives, but a whole spectrum of possible approaches, weren’t there?”

    The spectrum of possible approaches would just about number the amount of people in the country!! I thought that was why we have Parties? It is never going to be perfect- is it?
    A parliament full of independents would be interesting…but would they ever decide anything? It’s difficult enough with two in coalition.
    Immediately after the election we were not in an ideal world(we never are). It’s compromise that makes the world go round- and the bleedin obvious fact that we have no money.
    I still say that students are better off because of the Lib/Dems. But their(students) lack of knowledge and understanding-(the country was on the brink!) plus bias of the media, makes the Lib/Dems responsible – letting the other two Parties off.
    It was a “perfect storm” for the Lib/Dems.

  • daft ha'p'orth 7th Nov '13 - 6:39pm

    @AC Trussell 7th Nov ’13 – 5:55pm
    “The spectrum of possible approaches would just about number the amount of people in the country!! I thought that was why we have Parties? It is never going to be perfect- is it?”
    I’ve often wondered what parties are intended to achieve, versus what they actually do.
    And yes, you would have to rapidly reduce the options to a number of representative possibilities, but when you find that the three parties arguing the toss between a 9,000, 12,000 and £infinity raise in tuition fees — and one of those parties is the one that was previously telling everybody in sight that £0 was definitely an option – then it’s reasonable to note that the parties preemptively agreed an outcome and are merely fiddling around with footling details for the good of the peanut gallery.

    “A parliament full of independents would be interesting…but would they ever decide anything? It’s difficult enough with two in coalition.”
    We’ve been doing this on a local level round ‘ere. It’s been working pretty well. Turns out that reasonable people can come to reasonable conclusions. I don’t say it’d work as a blanket policy, No More Parties, but I’d love to see both the system and public perception move slightly towards respect for the politician as an individual thinker. Either we trust them or we don’t, so we need to find ones we can, and based on the evidence of the last few years I have come around to the view that party structures can have a lot to do with putting politicians into a place where they lose a lot of trust very quickly and very permanently.

    “Immediately after the election we were not in an ideal world(we never are). It’s compromise that makes the world go round- and the bleedin obvious fact that we have no money.”
    Hah, yes, we’re so skint that we’ve spent nine billion quid on the Olympics and we’re planning on spending £50bn, was it, on HS2. “There is no money left” is a popular rallying-call of he/she who wishes to circumvent debate. Often I’ve seen it used where it definitely doesn’t belong, where budgets haven’t actually reduced at all or where the new scheme has in fact cost the country more. Sometimes better solutions can be found that don’t require additional money to be thrown at them, too. I’d have more sympathy with the tuition fee thing if it had been cheaper than sticking with the old system. Hepi says it isn’t.

    “I still say that students are better off because of the Lib/Dems.”
    Fair enough. I will cordially disagree and leave it there, having been through that one in other threads.

    “But their(students) lack of knowledge and understanding-(the country was on the brink!) plus bias of the media”
    Indeed. The parties say: “There is no alternative. And it’s always the fault of the people who disagree.They just don’t understand.” Or “they’re listening to the wrong message!” And then they leave, stop voting, find some improbable bunch to vote for or take their political guidance from a pseudo-revolutionary comedian. 🙂

    Telling ’em off for being disappointed has been tried and it doesn’t work. In communication as in policy, there must be compromise in all directions including, to an extent, the expectations of the general public. If you aren’t going to do what a certain group wants then at least be as honest with them as possible about the reasons, the result and the ramifications. That’s not honesty as in ‘point five on this month’s approved talking points’. People sense that and they don’t like it.

  • David Allen 8th Nov '13 - 2:28pm

    Matthew Huntbach,

    ” ‘What Brand said was right,’ Molly said. [Names are changed.] ‘It doesn’t f*cking matter who we vote for. They’re only interested in themselves. How much money they rake in or can give to their bollocks rich business friends.’

    Sure, but how do the kids know all this? Are they experts in politics, or have they just picked it up because that’s what people say?”

    Er, I think the kids have picked up what appears on all the normal news channels. They will have wondered what a Labour politician was doing on a Russian oligarch’s yacht, partying with George Osborne. They will have read about how rich Blair has now made himself. They may have read about the young SPAD from Chalfont St Giles, who started off by working for Leon Brittan, then joined a centre-left party, and then turned it into a centre-right party. They’re not stupid.

    That does not mean, of course, that the kids and the Brands know it all. Peter Mandelson may have sipped the same vodka punch as George Osborne did, but the two men did and do stand for different policy prescriptions. To those of us who are reasonably well off professionals, that matters quite a lot.

    To the young who can’t get a job, can’t get a decent place to live, and just get sneered at by the political classes, including the Liberal Democrats – It doesn’t matter a flying f*ck.

  • AC Trussell 8th Nov '13 - 4:06pm

    David Allen:
    “To the young who can’t get a job, can’t get a decent place to live, and just get sneered at by the political classes, including the Liberal Democrats – It doesn’t matter a flying f*ck.”

    I don’t want to extend this very complex conversation much further-one reason is that people make sweeping statements(as they do in all the media) and I don’t see the facts.
    So, David, could you please tell me the Liberal Democrats that have “sneered” at the young who can’t get a job?
    I am genuinely interested as I will follow what they say in the future.

  • daft ha'p'orth 9th Nov '13 - 12:19am

    @AC Trussell
    Sing along with me as we return to the heady days of 2010.
    We all read the headlines about benefit fraud. We all agree it’s wrong when people help themselves to benefits they shouldn’t get. […] We will be tough on welfare cheats. Welfare reform will be controversial too. Benefit reform is difficult in times of plenty, but essential when money is tight./ Labour’s welfare system simply isn’t fair. It pays people to live without hope of a better life instead of paying to help them build a better life. A liberal welfare system is different. It’s built around work. I believe in work.”

    And 2011:
    There are millions of people in Alarm Clock Britain. People, like Sun readers, who have to get up every morning and work hard to get on in life. People who want their kids to get ahead. People who don’t want to rely on state handouts. It is their hard graft, day in, day out, that will get us out of the hole Labour left us in.”

    Further karaoke opportunities are offered by Danny Alexander’s Sun efforts, entitled “Bedroom Blockers and Tax Dodgers Will Pay” and “Rich Tax Dodgers Are As Bad As Dole Cheats”.

    As someone with a background in computing, incidentally, I also very much enjoyed Clegg’s solution to the NEET problem (he describes NEETS as ‘some of our most troubled teenagers’, incidentally): “Young people are highly computer savvy already – I wonder how many hours a day young NEETs spend on Facebook? Given the opportunity, these people could fill the IT skills gap long term. ” Yes, that’s what computer scientists, IT professionals and young NEETS do all day; Facebook.

    Honestly, though, the Lib Dems are playing the straight-man in the Coalition vaudeville duo. I’m not sure it is useful to analyse the utterances of either party without also looking at the way each reacts to comments made by the other (or doesn’t).

  • AC Trussell 9th Nov '13 - 10:06am

    daft ha’p’orth
    If that was the answer to me wanting to see some facts about the “sneering” statement- I think one of us should get another dictionary. I get ; rude and not showing respect . 🙂

  • daft ha'p'orth 9th Nov '13 - 11:15am

    @AC Trussell
    Yes, and my point is that people perceive Lib Dems as active partners in the coalition’s unarguable distaste for everybody except the favourite few, even though the Lib Dems do not tend to actively use words like ‘shirker’. Lib Dems are by and large too politically correct to use obviously foul terminology, with the exception of the odd mandated linguistic artifact such as ‘spare room subsidy’. My suspicion is that this public perception is because at the earlier points in this coalition the Lib Dems took a role as the straight-man in these very nasty-minded national debates. The vaudeville act in question goes something like the following:

    Lib Dems: Good ol’ hard-working chaps, you’re the salt of the earth, you’ll save our country. We respect hard work!
    Chorus: Yeah!
    Lib Dems: Now let’s handle those tax-dodgers and bedroom-blockers and benefit cheats!
    Conservatives: Shirkers and strivers! Scroungers! Work for the dole!
    Chorus: Yeah!

    Thank goodness the Lib Dems have significantly distanced themselves from this role, realising presumably that a little spikiness helps the public to know how the members of the coalition actually differ. Even so, Clegg still presents himself as a polite conservative, harsh-but-fair. Some people do need tough sanctions; work is always the better option; benefit-dependency for those with ill health belittles their potential and so on. From the perspective of a person dealing with genuine problems these harsh-but-fair views probably also sound pretty offensive:

    Terminally-ill cancer patient enters stage left.
    Patient: I have six months to live. Could I have some money please?
    Clegg: “We should not delude ourselves that it is an act of compassion to tell someone that because of ill health they should spend the rest of their lives dependent on benefits.”
    ATOS turns down cancer patient’s claim.
    Clegg: “You have just as much potential as everyone else!”
    Patient expires stage left.

    As an arbitrary sidenote, the Sun seems to have gone off Lib Dems recently. I’m assuming that relates to Leveson, though.

    21st Jun 2012 : Danny Alexander’s Rich Tax Dodgers Are As Bad As Dole Cheats
    28th September, 2012: Clegg was The Sun’s ‘hero of the week’ re. supporting welfare cuts in a speech at the LD conf
    12th October, 2012: Clegg was The Sun’s ‘hero of the week’ re. supporting Page 3
    31st Mar 2013 : Danny Alexander’s Bedroom blockers and tax dodgers will pay
    13th September 2013 : Nick Clegg’s Gone To The Dogs (article includes artistic photoshop of Clegg’s face on a poodle)
    19th September 2013: Nick Clegg is Dr No Idea

  • AC Trussell,

    “David, could you please tell me the Liberal Democrats that have “sneered” at the young”

    Well, I quoted one of them in my post. I’ll repeat the relevant part of the quote. “.. But how do the kids know all this? Are they experts in politics, or have they just picked it up because that’s what people say?” That’s an obnoxiously patronising comment (from someone who usually talks more sense).

  • David Allen,
    “That’s an obnoxiously patronising comment ”

    I honestly ,cannot see ; “.. But how do the kids know all this? Are they experts in politics, or have they just picked it up because that’s what people say?” as a patronising. (by the way-we were talking about sneering!)

    It is a fair question. I know many people that will make negative and often sweeping comments about politics/politicians and they will have no idea of the reasoning and history of the event or situation. They just repeat the headlines they have been fed for the last days/months and years.
    They do not have the slightest inclination to try and find out any reasoning behind the event/situation.
    I would’t have though that simply asking the question is ” obnoxiously patronising “.
    I must be worse than that because I am saying that I find it to be true. I wonder what you will call me?

    I see that Matthew Huntbach said it earlier; is he the “sneered at by the political classes, including the Liberal Democrats ” you talk of? I thought you were talking of someone in the news?!!

  • daft ha'p'orth 10th Nov '13 - 9:44pm

    @AC Trussell
    You were just telling me the importance of a good dictionary. The Collins dictionary says:
    patronise (verb)
    to behave or treat in a condescending way
    Synonyms
    = talk down to, look down on, treat as inferior, treat like a child, be lofty with, treat condescendingly

    Perhaps the above definition will help to clarify the relationship between ‘sneering’ and ‘patronising’? (FWIW, my last sentence was mildly patronising… intended only as an exemplar, I assure you.)

    Now, let’s review the question, keeping the dictionary definition in mind.
    “how do the kids know all this?” – I’d say that’s a tick in the ‘treat like a child’ box, maybe also ‘talk down to’. Let’s keep in mind here that Molly and her mates are of age to vote, drink alcohol etc. Calling ’em ‘young people’ has the benefit of being relatively respectful.
    “Are they experts in politics?” – the speaker clearly intends this to be rhetorical, suggesting that Molly et al know too little to hold a valid opinion. So maybe a tick in the ‘treat as inferior’ box too.

    One could certainly ask a question with a similar informational value in a less patronising manner, and there might be value in doing so provided that one asked it in a manner that reflected a genuine interest in finding out and appropriately contextualising the answer. The question would, however, need to be formulated rather differently. In any case, questions like ‘are they experts in politics’ really only have any value if one includes a control group, because I am willing to bet that a large proportion of politically active people of any age spend a significant proportion of their time ‘repeating stuff they picked up because that’s what people say’. Even MPs do it.

  • I always remember the slogan the French left adopted a few years ago when Jean Marie le Pen’s Front National party reached the presidential run-off with Nicholas Sarkozy. Their slogan was genius – “vote for the crook, not the racist”.

    That’s the biggest problem (of many) I have with Brand’s rantings. Their is always a choice. There’s always someone less bad than someone else. If you agree with Paxman’s sneering or Brand’s ranting you’re effectively saying that everyone’s the same. The local activist is lumped in with the swivel-eyed nasty. All the same. Vermin the lot of them.

    The other side of this coin is that it puts off the very few brave sould like us who felt passionate enough to start delivering some leaflets, knocking on doors and then perhaps (shock horror) standing ourselves. If the moment this happens you’re treated as some hateful selfish so-and-so, what sort of person is going to want to stand?

    There’s something particularly distasteful having to listen to someone as privileged and ignorant as Brand who I’m certain hasn’t a clue about what 90% of politics is about (mostly boring, hard work) spouting off in the way he does and condemning the very people who want to change the way things are. Particularly as he can’t be bothered to lift a finger himself. Nasty man.

  • daft ha'p'orth 13th Nov '13 - 11:05am

    @Julian Tisi
    ‘Less bad that somebody else’ is the same type of marketing relied on by scripted pro wrestling. Such events rely on the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief: they understand that it is scripted and that the actual outcome is pretty much predefined, but they do not care because it is fun to watch and to react as though it is a real sporting event with real consequences and victims. These are bad times, so politics has assumed an importance that ordinarily it does not have. Cheering your preferred character on has begun to seem pretty unrewarding. The audience’s capacity for willing suspension of disbelief is close to exhaustion at this stage.

    Now, I happen to agree with you (and Matthew Huntbach) that the brave souls who get out there and knock on doors are indeed brave souls, that many do genuinely want to change the way things are, are genuinely knowledgeable and insightful and that this is a good thing and should be encouraged. However, I don’t agree that respecting this means that we must blind ourselves to the fact that our MPs by and large have feet of clay. In fact, I don’t think party members should be blind to that either. They work hard; they deserve better.

    A problem we seem to have here is that – to return to the pro wrestling metaphor – we vote for a candidate for all the right reasons, but once he gets that MP’s role he is immediately required to start following the script laid down for his ring name and hence his actions rapidly cease to resemble anything we would’ve expected from him. Not the MP’s fault, very probably, but if the MP is not to blame for this then what can we change to improve matters? (serious question).

    And yes, Brand probably is a nasty man as well as being undoubtedly privileged, arguably ignorant and definitely focusing on his own self-interest, marketing and media profile. In this he is joined by a large number of other media personalities, including many politicians.

  • I’m probably one of the only young people here (I’m 17) – and actually reading through these comments of people straight-off dismissing brand because of preconceived ideas annoys me.

    He’s definitely not a political leader nor does he aim to be, but as a 17 year old I completely understand where he’s coming from, and I think he should be an inspiration to politicians. No one my age really sees any benefit to them from the current system, except for maybe some of the basic human requirements (in my opinion), like the NHS, and free education (albeit an extremely confused system, in my eyes currently being changed by someone who has no idea how the comprehensive system differs from the private sector but thats another point).

    I just get angry when I see the government doing nothing about equality, wealth, and as Brand suggests, the heavy taxation of huge corporations (why have the tax loopholes not been fixed yet?!). This alone would bring enough money for the government to create loads of jobs in the public sector and therefore make a step father outward of this so-called recession.

    And actually lastly it annoys me how we don’t get a great insight into where the government pours taxpayers money – which I think should be a human right to know considering it’s pretty much forced upon anyone who lives here. ( if you dig deep enough you can find out but it’s not exactly common knowledge as it should be). Wealth distribution around counties is not as equal as it should be (yes bigger counties need more £ but even still you look at a map of tax distribution and it doesn’t seem to add up).

    For me it’s the plain simplicity of things that could be done that just aren’t, and that’s why I won’t vote when I turn 18 until I see a viable reason for me to do so – and no, not just because a party fixes one thing in a flawed system, I want to see a revolution in how the country is run and not in some stupid hierarchal chain of power.

  • And no I don’t know everything there is to running a country, I don’t think anyone individually does – but I can definitely tell you I don’t like the way it’s being run. However much parties claim to be different I don’t see many changes from party to party, mostly just broken promises and I’m only young and already sick of it. A lot of people my age feel the same way, I know that for a fact – and Brand is the only audible public voice that vaguely represents this view of complete change and revolution that people want.

  • Also voting for preconceived ideas is not what anyone wants. Ideas passed to local MP’s sadly never make it up the hierarchal chain of command (hence a flawed system)

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