Russell Brand has recently used his fame as a popular comedian to voice his political views. His new book, Revolution looks set to be a Christmas bestseller while his appearances on Newsnight have propelled him to the forefront of the British political scene. The question is, just how influential can he be?
Revolution has recently hit the shops. It advocates a rejection of mainstream politics and, as the name suggests, a complete overhaul of the current political structure. Yet, Brand often appears more concerned in putting across his ‘us vs them’ rhetoric than supplying a genuinely revolutionary manifesto. The phrase ‘the revolution cannot be boring’ perhaps best betrays the incoherence of his political views and paints the picture of a bored celebrity dabbing his hand at politics for something to do.
In many ways, what Brand is trying to achieve is noble. As Boris Johnson recently admitted, a man of Brand’s fame and popularity could ‘strike a chord’ with disaffected voters. This cannot be faulted, politicians have long worried about the growing disaffection and lack of interest in contemporary politics. In this sense Brand’s work can only be viewed in a positive light, any way of engaging young voters should be encouraged but we must remember that he is a comedian, not a politician. This is made abundantly clear in his writing:
“We’d all be a bit disappointed if utopia and ditching capitalism boiled down to ‘We want to be a bit more like Germany’ – f*** that.”
Admittedly, Revolution is an entertaining read but entertainment isn’t the order of the day for a political manifesto. It hardly compares to the eternal call to arms of Marx and Engels:
“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre.”
Brand’s writing is long-winded and often confused, as is his rhetoric. He is a man on a mission with a clear view of what he sees to be wrong in our society but so far he’s failed to outline a meaningful alternative. In both Newsnight appearances, with Evan Davies and previously Jeremy Paxman, Brand has brilliantly detailed the faults in our society and attacked the establishment. Yet, even after a year to write a book on the subject, his alternative vision lacks clarity and looks chaotic at best.
Brand has recently hinted that he may run for London Mayor in 2016. This fundamentally contradicts everything he has previously said and written about politics. In the infamous interview with Jeremy Paxman, he declared that voting was “a waste of time” and not the way to bring about change. How can a man who refuses to vote and condemns party politics run as a candidate in the established political system he so passionately attacks? This is not the only inconsistency. He is far closer to the establishment he vilifies than the working people he claims to represent. Admittedly Brand is not the archetypal, Oxbridge educated toff, but he certainly isn’t a figure of working-class normality either. How many of us can say we’ve married a world-famous pop star whilst riding an elephant?
Russell Brand cannot be faulted for being exciting. He is making people think about politics and hopefully engaging young and previously disaffected voters. For that, he deserves tremendous credit but we must remember that Brand is a comedian. His views are incoherent, his principles contradictory and he is not a politician providing a credible alternative. Brand is a man with a vision but he certainly is not the new Karl Marx.