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Why Brand-ing Miliband was the right move

xaz8xuA Frost/Nixon for our age? No, but the media reaction to Russell Brand’s encounter with Ed Miliband is out of all proportion to what was said. The actual content of the interview is pretty innocuous, at least from the standpoint of grizzled lefties and hardened politicos. Yet where Brand’s core audience are concerned, the teens to the mid-30 somethings who tend not to pay politics anywhere near as much mind as the likes of you and I, it’s a different story. That is why Ed was absolutely right to seek him out and take whatever ra-ra-revolutionary verbiage cum cheeky banter on offer, and once again the expectations of the commentariat were confounded. The worst they could fault him for was dropping his tees and gees which, all told, is a bit pathetic.

This was the right move for another reason. For the first time in this campaign, a major media commentator – for that is what Brand is these days – has asked questions about issues that would never trouble the prompt sheets of your Paxos and Brillos. Class. Ownership. Capital. Change. The whole point of voting. The legitimacy of mainstream politics. These are matters absolutely crucial for understanding 21st century Britain, for getting to grips with the forces that structure and condition our politics and political debate.

While it’s right professional interviewers should scrutinise the details of party programmes, no one is interested in the bigger picture, of understanding how we as citizens can hope to change things with our individual votes when power is concentrated in huge, unaccountable private institutions? If Brand isn’t going to ask these questions, then who will? Andrew Marr? Kay Burley?

Ed Miliband, for his part, made the case for linking voting to wider project of progressive change, of tentatively stepping beyond the remit of representative politics. He rightly made the point that change can be slow, but that government is one avenue that can assist. Ed would have done well to have added that if none of this matters, then why are the Tories, their overseas fellow travellers, and their helpful friends in the city are pulling out all the stops to win – including today’s helpfully out riding for what professional political comment thinks:

But I can’t understand why leftwing feminists have not come out in their droves to condemn Miliband for going anywhere near Russell Brand. By his own admission he has slept with more than 1000 women, including prostitutes. I find that man abhorrent and I think it is such a bad idea for a politician to have anything to do with him. It was unbearable to watch Miliband (who might not be 100% my cup of tea in lots of ways, and some of his ideas are bonkers, but he is a genuine supporter of women and I’m sure he would put his hand on his heart and say he is a feminist) be lectured by Brand on the uselessness of the female vote. The suffragettes would have hung, drawn and quartered Brand.

I’d take Allsopp’s whinging more seriously if she gave a fig about what’s happening to women less fortunate than her under the Tories. She has every right to criticise Brand for his sexism of course, which plenty of feminists have done before it became politically convenient to do so, but Allsopp’s voice has been curiously silent during the destruction of women’s shelters, the closure of children’s centres, cuts to the public sector and social security, and the increase in low paid insecure work – all of which affect women disproportionately. And as she does so, at least Brand is making amends for past behaviour. Solidarity around the Kurdish struggle against Islamic State and, in particular, the leading combat roles taken by feminist comrades in that fight; and of course supporting the women of the New Era estate in their victory over an unscrupulous property developer. Actions speak louder than words, Kirstie.

Allsopp’s remarks condenses the rubbish that gets written about Brand. People on the right and the centre left lecture him about his behaviour and his views, but for many of them politics is something they write about in the office. They don’t give their free time to ‘doing stuff’, they don’t weigh in and use whatever pull they might have to effect change. Politics is something others do. They observe and record, and that for them is enough. Brand doesn’t fit into that mold and, in his own way, despite his wonkish aspect neither does the Labour leader. Yet he gets the big interviews, the book deals, the Question Time slots, the column acreage. His productions are anarchic, he plays fast and loose with the dialectic of serious vs unserious. Why use one word when seven will do is Brand’s favoured approach. But ultimately, what Brand exemplifies is fear. Comedians are public figures, and Brand as Britain’s current king of the pile is a working class boy done good who’s muscling in on their turf. If hundreds of thousands can hang on this upstart’s words, so other proletarian and semi-lumpen voices might also reach places polite, established debate cannot touch.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

11 Comments

  1. John p Reid says:

    Because the bloke down the pub ,was undecided who he was going to vote for, thought about labour,no this has put him off, if people were t thinking of voting labour because they don’t agree with environment tax, mansion tax, the 50p rate, no EU referendum, not having no minty for rape accused, DNA databases, reverse of guilty till proven innocent for rape cases, positive discrimination, banning Islamaphobia, Emily Thornberry’s snobbery, Diane Abbott and Harriet Harman contempt for the law, or Harman backing the Peado Inofmation exchange,

    They weren’t going to vote Labour already,

    What are the Pubs like in Billericky?

    1. Robert says:

      Most of the pubs I go to and it a few these days if the TV which is normally on Sky sports starts to speak about politics the TV is either turned off or turned over.

      The problem is getting those lost Millions back and this election is not going to do it.

      Most of the people in the Pubs I go are sitting in seat talking about nothing drivel mostly and if somebody says what about the election , they will be sitting alone.

      I’ve no interest who wins the next election I pay my rent full and I pay my council tax and I pay income tax on my benefits because of the few thousand I have in a bank account, if the Tories wins I will be hammered if labour wins I will be hammed, so I will get hammed.

      Labour was the first party that actually sold off bits of the NHS, so anyone now saying the NHS is safe with labour will be six or seven.

      When I go into a pub the biggest discussion is what will Swansea City do next season or where will Manchester United do, and if anyone says who will win the next election many will say what election you pratt.

  2. John p Reid says:

    Were the suffragettes and other feminists against prostituion, and how does sleeping worth 1000’s of women, make him sexist, his humiliation of Andrew Sachs, by boasting he’d slept with his granddaughter on the other hand, was vile

    But can’t a politician be interviewed by someone who’s morality is different to their own?

  3. John p Reid says:

    brand was hardly working class

    1. Robert says:

      best laugh for a month thanks John Brilliant.

      1. John p Reid says:

        It annoys me when many people pretend to be working class, from Benn to Harman, Blair and many rocks stars too

        1. Robert says:

          Miliband is not poor is believed to be a Millionaire as is his brother.

          Politicians do seem to need to be pretty rich before enter politics maybe it’s the low wages.

          Sorry John but for me and for many others labour has become the choice for to many rejects in society people who cannot for some reason hold down real jobs and that goes for all parties look at Cameron Osborne work record, look at Miliband.

  4. the commentariat is out of touch with reality. Brand is listened to by the young, so tactically correct to speak to him

    Who is Allsopp? No idea so always best to give a Christian name. Out in the sticks its not easy to keep up with all the chattering classes.

    If politicians don’t connect esp with someone who was allowed to guest edit the new statesman without a hysterical response, it really will be down to who you know at dinner parties in Chelsea

    Miliband got this one right. He did not have to approve of Brand as far as I can tell from the reports did not do so

    Trevor Fisher

  5. Matty says:

    This Billericaydickie commenter is Terry Fitzpatrick, someone convicted of racially-aggravated harassment. See http://www.obv.org.uk/node/4200

  6. Tim Barlow says:

    For “real people”, read UKIP people. If you go to Wetherspoons to socialise, I pity you…

  7. David Pavett says:

    I don’t mind if Miliband speaks to Brand, or anyone else.

    What I do mind is that this trivial exchange is clearly regarded as an alternative to the organisation of well-informed democratic debate which the Labour Party makes such efforts to avoid.

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