Gor blimey. Um-diddle-iddle-iddle-um-diddle-aye. What Russell Brand is on about can be hard to discern at the best of times. So what to make of his latest decision to endorse Ed Miliband?
- He effectively endorses a barmy left alliance It’s notable that Brand’s endorsement for Labour is England-only (excluding Brighton Pavilion, where he wants Caroline Lucas to win) – having publicly supported Scottish independence, he now says Scots don’t want an Englishman like him to tell them how to vote. The implication seems to be that a hard left coalition, the more barmy the better, would be his preferred outcome.
- He intends this to be the beginning of Labour moving even further to the Left. The Labour leader, Brand tells us, “welcomes and wants pressure from below” to shift his party’s politics. As Owen Jones rightly surmises: “He’s not advocating a vote for Labour because he’s become a born-again Milibandite, but because he believes Labour are far more amenable to pressure than Tories.” In short, this is a deal to drive Labour further to the Left than they already are – either because Miliband is weak enough to allow that to happen, or, as Brand claims, Miliband actively wants that to happen.
- But quite a lot of his audience can’t vote. Some, of course, may be too young or live abroad. But if the number of votes in Brand’s audience is much smaller than the total, then in large part he has himself to blame. He spent months encouraging people not to vote, and not even to register – how many of his viewers and readers followed the advice? Presumably those that did so were those most easily influenced…so the very people most likely to want to follow his endorsement this week. If only someone hadn’t told them there was no point in taking part in the democratic process.
- And the rest are more clever than Brand’s advocates seem to assume. Ok, so I may have raised a few eyebrows a couple of bullet points ago by saying that Owen Jones was right about something. (As it happens, I think he’s right about more than one thing – not least his criticism of our support for the Saudis and his intermittent scepticism of the EU). But here’s my chance to reassure you I haven’t completely lost it. Jones, and others on the trendy left, accuses critics of Brand of “sneering” at young voters. But he seems to forget that Brand isn’t a young voter. He’s a middle-aged millionaire in skinny jeans. To assume that his readers and viewers will simply do what he tells them is utterly patronising – being young doesn’t mean you’re an idiot. I suspect plenty would no more trust Russell Brand to decide their vote for them than they would ask Natalie Bennett to deliver a stand-up routine.
- The whole affair is likely to be a net loss for Labour. Those who are getting terribly excited about “Milibrand”, as it’s been called, seem to have forgotten the rest of the electorate. These clips aren’t just seen by Brand fans (who, as I’ve already discussed, shouldn’t now be seen as automatic Labour voters), they’re seen or at least heard and read about by millions more. The readers of mainstream newspapers, the viewers of BBC and Sky News, the people chatting about the latest election news with their mates. They may find Russell Brand funny, but few will equate him with sage advice for the nation. Millions think he is, frankly, nuts and find his politics deeply worrying. To them, the news that Miliband “welcomes and wants” this influence to move even closer to the lunatic fringe will simply act as more fuel for their concerns for the future. As seen in today’s endorsement of the Coalition by The Independent, the left should already be worried that they’re spooking people into voting Tory. Recruiting Russell Brand will only spur that trend on.