There are more than 164,000 registered charities in the UK, but I think we need another one. Let’s call it the Royal Society for the Protection of Fish in Barrels. Its purpose is to come to the aid of people who are obviously wrong, but find themselves the victims of an unnecessarily aggressive and tedious campaign to state the obvious at every opportunity.
Top of our list of concerns is Russell Brand who’s had an absolute monstering all over the press and the internet in the last few weeks. At the centre of the fuss is his new book, Revolution – a statement of Brand’s anarchistic, leftwing political beliefs. As such, it is wrong about all sorts of things.
But with all that wrongness to choose from it’s odd that so many of Brand’s critics miss the mark. For instance, they focus on his celebrity (would they be reviewing his book if he wasn’t one?), his wealth (no one has ever been forced to give him money – unlike a lot of well-heeled lefties), his writing style (less impenetrable than the output of certain highly-rated public intellectuals one could mention) and his supposedly risible habit of using long words while in possession of a working class accent.
Then there’s his friendliness to religion and spirituality, which earns him instant bad karma with the cultural establishment. Even worse is his emphasis on achieving change from the bottom-up, starting with the human soul. Billy Bragg once wrote about a “socialism of the heart” and while Brand’s vision of a Big Society for anti-capitalists might not sound like a whole lot of fun, it does represent a challenge to the mechanistic, top-down statism of the conventional left.
Of course, it’s not just conventional lefties who have had a pop. There’s been plenty of opprobrium from the right too. As I say, much of this is well-deserved, but perhaps we’re also missing the point.
One right-winger who does appear to understand the real meaning of Brand is none other than Nigel Farage. Writing in the Independent, this is what the UKIP leader had to say about the bearded one and his followers:
“…who can blame people for wanting to put an end to the cronyist politics that plagues the West?
“…I have a lot of sympathy with people who want different policies from the ‘three major’ parties. Sure, they mistake ‘capitalism’ for ‘corporatism’, and have a slightly different view as to what a society should look like. But we’re driven by the same inate passion to see radical change in our politics. It’s this discontent that is leading a left-wing populist party to success in Spain; a right-wing, populist party to success in America; and an anti-EU, policy-wonk party to successes in Germany.”
Farage could have given a long list of other examples – including three for this country alone (UKIP, the SNP and the Greens). While the likes of Farage, Salmond, Lucas and Brand may be accused of various shades of wackiness, nothing they can come up with is half as weird as the head-in-the-sand, business-as-usual politics of the Westminster establishment:
“…that’s why when Russell Brand goes on television and starts talking in riddles about how he’d run the country, TV producers and the general public tend to listen. Ok – he doesn’t really say anything, but at least he looks and sounds different to most of the others on offer. Kudos, Mr Brand – if your attempts are genuine – to try and get more people engaged in the political debate.”
Some might say that Farage is talking about himself here, but there’s a big difference between the two men (apart from their politics): one of the them has submitted himself to the voters’ verdict and the other hasn’t.
Anyone who says that voting doesn’t matter should ask themselves how our mainstream politicians feel about the protest parties now breathing down their necks.