If Nigel Farage is ‘a pound shop Enoch Powell’, then Russell Brand is either David St. Hubbins from ‘Spinal Tap’ or Reg from the People’s Front of Judea…
by Pseud O'Nym
Appearing on BBC1’s ‘Question Time’ recently with a panel that included Nigel Farage, Russell Brand, in one of his many populist rhetorical flourishes, called Nigel Farage ‘a pound shop Enoch Powell.’ Cue much applause from the audience, who didn’t know how or why this was an insult, but that nonetheless it was. To be likened to Enoch Powell. And with initials like N.F?
Of course Farage isn’t ‘a pound shop Enoch Powell.’ He isn’t anything like him at all. Most people, if they know anything at all about Powell, might come up with ‘rivers of blood’. Except of course, that he actually never said ‘rivers of blood.’ Not for the first time, popular myth became truth. What he actually said was ‘As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.
You might think I’m nitpicking. If so you can read an excerpt of his speech here. And you’ll also discover he was awarded a rare double starred first in Latin and Greek. So him referencing an obscure Greek poem – The Aeneid – that very few of his detractors would’ve heard of is no surprise. Even less that he referenced him at all, given how he was a professor of Greek at the age of 25.
My point is that anyone can make a rather facile comparison that someone is like Enoch Powell, safe in the knowledge that they won’t have to defend or justify that comparison. It does rather prove the point that the only brand Russell Brand is ultimately interested in is himself. To anyone disenchanted with politics, alienated by a language that politicians use, but which doesn’t make sense to them, most of what he says might seem like straight-forward common sense. But to anyone else with an I.Q. larger than the radius of their kneecap, he might resemble David St.Hubbins from Spinal Tap.
David said this, “Before I met Jeanine, my life was cosmically in shambles, it was ah…I was using bits and pieces of whatever Eastern philosophies happened to drift through my transom and she sort of sorted it out for me, straightened it out for me.”
And Russell said this, ”This attitude of churlish indifference seems like nerdish deference contrasted with the belligerent antipathy of the indigenous farm folk, who regard the hippie-dippie interlopers, the denizens of the shimmering tit temples, as one fey step away from transvestites.” The words, individually make sense, but put together the way he has, it is like a cook taking the finest of ingredients but the way they combine them results in an inedible mess.
(And by the way, it’s not just me who thinks he’s less of a gifted orator than he clearly does. The Plain English Campaign awarded him their ‘Goobledygoop’ prize for that idiosyncratic use of English)
If Brand is a sort of spokesperson for a lost generation, then that lost generation’s bike wheels are punctured. And when his thoughts do make a kind of sense, you kind of wish they didn’t. Here he is on BBC2’s ‘Newsnight’ advocating not voting;
“Yeah, they shouldn’t vote, they should – that’s one thing they should do, don’t bother voting. Because when it reaches – there’s a point – see these little valves, these sort of like little cozy little valves of recycling and Prius and like you know turn up somewhere, it stops us reaching the point where you think, “I see, this is enough now.” Stop voting. Stop pretending. Wake up. Be in reality now. Time to be in reality now. Why vote? We know it’s not going to make any difference. We know that already.”
Basically what he says appears radical and edgy, but ultimately only perpetuates the status quo – the politics of the what is and not of the what could.
The stark facts are these. At the 2010 election 45.6 million people were registered to vote of whom 29.7 million actually bothered to so. Meaning that 65.1% did and 34.9% didn’t. The Conservatives got 36% of votes cast. So when Brand exhorts non-participation, David, Ed and Nick must be secretly grateful. Because politicians know that the older you are, the more likely to vote you are. Hence their reluctance to cut any benefits to a group likely to kick them in the ballots. Conversely, the younger a voter is the less likely they are to vote, and so cuts to their benefits have little electoral risk.
Hang on! If Russell Brand might bear some resemblance to David St.Hubbins, then by spouting such trumpery moonshine, he is channeling the spirit of Reg from the People’s Front of Judea in ’The Life of Brian’. In the same way that Reg is grudgingly forced to concede that yes, the Romans did a lot that benefitted Judea, so anyone who allows reason to intrude upon their thought process must agree, that yes democracy can make a difference. Ask yourself, where would you rather live, England or Eritrea?
Farage does the same trick, albeit to a different demographic and with a different outcome. By appealing to older voters disaffected with what they see as everyone else doing better whilst they do not, he channels their sense of alienation. ‘Yes’, he says, ‘Traditional politics have helped create a feeling of disillusionment, of repeated betrayal; I can understand why you feel that way. I understand the resentment you feel towards politicians who promise all manner of things when they want your vote, but once they’ve got it break them. But not all politicians are the same. I’m new. Different. An outsider. Vote for me.’
Anyone else remember the politician who presented themselves to the electorate in 2010 as a break from the past. And that voting for them would send out a clear message that the old way of doing things was over?
Look how he turned out!
I believe in politics. And if you don’t, then ask yourself why not? Because apathy changes nothing. Voting does. Participation does.
In 2010 65.1% of the eligible electorate voted.
The Conservatives got 36% of votes cast.
The Liberal Democrats go 23%t of votes cast.
Which means 34.9% of eligible voters didn’t vote.
And voting doesn’t make a difference. FFS!
Next time…how politics is to me what sport is to some men…..