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Why Ed was right to see Brand, and why it is Dacre, Murdoch and Cameron who are the real rusty rockets

Posted on 29 April 2015 | 8:04am

In the land of Twitter Russell Brand goes by the name of @rustyrockets. I wonder if that self deprecating metaphor might be better applied to those parts of the press that take such delight in saying how awful and how irrelevant to real debate he is. For they are the ones misfiring left right and centre, fighting for their survival, gasping to hold on to influence even as they feel it slipping away, while someone like Brand effortlessly makes the weather form around him.

Now I loathe the celebrity culture more than most. Reality TV, Simon Cowell Inc, crap magazines telling me A list Celeb A shared a bed with B list Celeb B while C List Celebs C and D have new tattoos on their arse are of zero interest to me. But Brand is a celeb with a difference. He has political antennae, something close to a worldview, and he connects with groups of people and motivates people in a way that few politicians seem able to.

I first became aware of him many years ago when my daughter told me she and her friends were hanging around his house, round the corner from ours, after school. He then moved away but came back into our lives when, at a time he was getting big and the press were starting to turn him into a Public Enemy, a mutual friend called me and asked if I would see him to discuss how to deal with newspapers which are hellbent on hate and destruction.

Readily I did so, and told him the story of a conversation John Prescott and I had around 1999 and 2000 when we realised we had both reached a position of genuinely not caring what newspapers thought or said about us. I cared what they said about Tony Blair and the government, but only if it prevented us from doing the things we wanted to, and my own profile, good or bad, did not really fall into that category. Once I stopped giving a damn what they said, it was liberating. It was the beginning of an approach rooted in the idea that all you can control is what you say and do, not what others say and do about it. This is a trend now accelerated by social media in which Brand is something of a star.

I have no idea if Brand adopted a changed approach thereafter but he has always struck me as someone with a very good sense of who he is, what he wants to achieve, and how. Not many people can claim to be actors, writers, comedians and activists, and very good at all of it, on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

There is another reason I am drawn to him and that is his experience of, and shared interest in, mental illness, in his case all manner of damaging addictive behaviours.

Like Ed Miliband, I have crossed the Brand threshold of his East London home. It is a lot funkier than the NW3 place that used to attract my daughter and her friends. Like Ed, I sat down with him and discussed politics. He was particularly keen to have a go at me about Iraq, and TB’s motivations. I was particularly keen to challenge him on his view, expressed when he was interviewed by – and more than held his own with – Jeremy Paxman, that voting made no difference. He didn’t change my mind about TB. I think I may have changed his about voting because afterwards I started to notice him changing his tune to the point of saying he wished he hadn’t said that, but he stood by everything else.

Since then, out on the speaking circuit, I have found myself mentioning Brand fairly often, saying I think he is wrong ever to advocate opting out of the democratic process, but right on a lot that he says about what politics and business have become. The need for revolution as it is commonly understood may be overstating things but that millions of people feel politics does not quite work, and our current economic model does not quite work, is surely beyond dispute. People like Brand can stir that up well, and actually to good not bad effect. Change can come in many ways, with many influencers along the way.

The interview we did was for a piece he was doing about the very subject of disengagement. In his last book, Revolution, he revealed that after I left his producer bollocked him – he thought Brand gave me too easy a ride because he was taken in by my shared love of a claret and blue football team and a shared zeal to improve understanding and services for mental illness.

But actually what I saw was someone who had certain strong principles and fixed views, but around them was fascinated by the views of others. We then did a slot for his online news chat, The Trews, where he looks at the newspapers with a guest. I was amazed how many people I bumped into in the next few weeks who had seen it. Any doubts about the reach of Brand were dispelled.

He also asked me if I thought he could persuade the party leaders to talk to him about politics. I was sceptical but told him how to make an approach to all of them. And I for one was glad when I heard Ed Miliband had said yes.

The papers today, rusty rockets firing and fulminating, are predictable in their outrage. But hidden within that outrage is a reality they cannot ignore – the story is on their front pages because what Ed Miliband says and does really really matters right now, because he may be a few days from being Prime Minister. And what Russell Brand says and does matters more than what the Sun, the Mail, the Telegraph, the Times, the Star and the Express are going to say on Election Day. Because anyone who has read them over the years could write it before they do. Predictable. Boring. Often nasty. Often wrong.

And if their readers believed it all, frankly Labour would be at around five per cent in the polls and Miliband’s ratings hovering just above the toilet. Just as if Scotland had voted in the referendum according to press coverage, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon would now be nothing more than footnotes of recent years rather than change-makers.

It is neither good nor bad that a young disaffected voter is more likely to listen to Russell Brand than Rupert Murdoch or Paul Dacre’s minions. It just is. And it is a good thing not a bad thing. Because it means old corrupt power structures are breaking down. That is why they rage ever louder, their growing impotence clearer with every howling shriek.

Russell Brand won’t decide the outcome of the election. The politicians will, by what they say and do, and above all the public will, by what they make of what the politicians say and do. It is why I suspect a nation groaned today as we heard or read that David Cameron would pass a law to keep him to his promises on tax. If ever there was a way to signal he broke them last time, he just did it. He has fought without doubt the worst campaign I can recall and it seems to get worse day by day. He didn’t deserve to win in 2010 and deserves it even less now.

And how predictable was his reaction on hearing Miliband had met Brand? ‘Brand is a joke and Miliband is a joke for seeing him.’ Whereas seeing Jeremy Clarkson or Katie Hopkins, or putting Karren Brady in the Lords to preside over half-baked small business PR stunts, or making Z-list celebs a ‘czar’ for this or a ‘czar’ for that, or sending best wishes to Tim Sherwood when he is made manager of phoney Dave’s claret and blue ‘team,’ that is all fine.

I have no idea, beyond what Ed has told me and what I have seen trailed, how the Brand interview will come out. But a few things I can be sure of. The Sun, Mail etc will rubbish it. More people will watch it than will watch any of the 24 hour news coverage that rolls like a lifeless blancmange over our TV screens from morning to night, and for every person who buys the Sun-Mail line and asks ‘why on earth is Miliband talking to that clown?’ a lot more will say ‘good on him,’ and think that the whole thing was good for Ed, good for Brand and good for politics.

As for the idea that it sets Brand up as some kind of serious commentator on politics, he already was. That is why it is Cameron, Murdoch and Dacre who are the jokes here, not Brand and certainly not Miliband.

Vote Labour and get this man, the worst and least strategic PM of our lifetime, out. Days to go. Can’t wait.

  • Andy

    I remember reading a blog written by Russell a couple of years ago and was struck by his articulation of the subject and how knowledgeable and interesting he came across. I genuinely hope the interview with Ed went well and get up the noses of Cameron and his fleet street pals.

    • Michele

      There’s a hilarious impersonation of his multi-syllable invented words in my link to the R4 show.

  • Michele

    RB’s books and written views just don’t get the exposure that his personal appearances do but isn’t it time he controlled this himself by not being such a baby-ish uppy-downy shouty thing in person and was told ‘yer not free years old any more Russell so just start acting as if yer might’ve passed seven eh’?

    Can his publishers appreciate how out of his way he goes to present a different face in person than he does on their paper?

    I’m glad he’s stopped bragging about his numerous conquests and would be glad a daughter would not be among them! 🙂

  • Gillian C.

    ‘Because it means old corrupt power structures are breaking down.’

    Not so sure about that. The real power structure/s are masters of disguise and will emerge as a new (corrupt) power structure just as they have done before many times in the past.

    I don’t dislike ol’ Russ, as he sometimes refers to himself as. I’m always sceptical of the people that the msm offers up to the public as hate figures. I won’t be told who I should like or dislike and I would think that applies to many others too.

    This site of your’s AC wouldn’t get so many visitors as it does if people believed everything in the msm.

    Russell Brand’s website is fun and a place where you can take an argument to without being moderated. There doesn’t seem to be any moderation on his site at all. I sometimes wish he’d ban some of the repetitive peculiar people, but that’s a small price to pay in return for free speech.

    • Michele

      Is it you in the photos Gillian ? 😉

      • Gillian C.

        It is yes. Quite a while ago, but basics don’t change much 🙂

        • Michele

          Oooooh seeing this belatedly 😉

  • Nick

    Given that several polls indicate it’s the future and safety of the NHS which concerns voters more than any other issue, I’m surprised that Labour haven’t publicised this clip of former Conservative Minister Michael Portillo admitting to Andrew Neil in 2013 that the Tories have to lie about their plans for the NHS or they’d never get elected. Here is the truth – “the Tories are lying to you” – direct from the horse’s mouth (or an ex-horse, to be strictly accurate):

  • Ehtch


    Where the small cocks,
    sent us for gates,
    them inbreds,
    and for stealing a loaf of bread.

    No wonder the colonies
    has adonises and goddesses,
    removed from my land,
    too charismic for thems.

    Fuck them,
    slaughter them in their rugger,
    and in their crickers,
    and shag their daughters right up to their ends.

    These days,
    David Cameron ghosting,
    he is one of them, from past.

    So use your vote carefully,
    and know where they stand,
    or you will be in quicksand,
    fucking you up your backend.

    • Stripey

      I suspect you are not applying for the Poet Laureate job then?

  • Ehtch

    RIGHT, this vid, give me a sec, it will be half-hitting, since we are a week away yet. Last few days is the secret, as long as Ed does not do a “Neil” thing! jeezuz!

  • Ehtch

    Here we go Alastair – I have better to come, don’t panic! Hit them in the last few days, I say. Watch out how much guns they will wheel out then, though. 😉

  • Dave Simons

    What has Brand in common with Bob Geldof, Bono and other ‘celebrities’? They are all publicity-seeking egoists who have the answers before they have the problems. There’s nothing new about grey politicians trying to colour their public images by association with celebrities – half a century back both Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Wilson tried this trick with The Beatles. Back then though I doubt if many people expected the Beatles to be taken seriously at a political level. These days celebrities are thought to be serious contenders for political office. For instance there are people around who think Boris Johnson could be a future Prime Minister! I blame us, the electorate. We get the politicians we deserve.

    • Gillian C.

      Dave, I really don’t think anyone can ‘blame us, the electorate.’ Because where the two main political parties are concerned we can only vote for the candidates they have selected.
      This also applies to the other fringe/bonkers parties of course. Maybe the selection system could do with an overhaul.

  • Michele

    Oh my goodness ……
    Letts sounds as if he’s turning in to a heaving soggy cheese, poor thing.

    I’m not sure why some people expect all Lefties to be hard up.
    Who made it THE criteria for us all?
    What dim-witted auto-gear simpletons some right wingers are.

    Coooeeee Quents – heard yet that Ed and Justine have just bought a £2m home (or that she earns £500k pa?).
    What matters about anyone’s income is that they pay proper tax.

    There’s Stanley Johnson with his Marie-Antoinette response about school fees (I bet he wasn’t so forgetful when claiming for them against his income tax) and there’s Doive with his Dad’s leavings that had long been squirrelled away in a C.I. ‘tax-efficient’ scam …. WHY a C.I. one ?


  • Michele

    Re comments on the leaders’ debate last night and the regurgitations about Liam Byrne’s note about no money being left.

    Re the spiteful school-sneaks’ mentions of it again and again it’s time for there being an responsibility for its raison d’etre being explained on every boring occasion.

    LB has said repeatedly that it was meant as a friendly note to a fellow ‘professional’ starting a new job, advising about what they might have to get used to hearing from their Civil Servants ie: it was a joke about MPs vs CSs, NOT about the state of the economy.

    It shouldn’t be a surprise that Tories and rag merchants exploit it in such a snidey way at every opportunity they get; they enjoy that so many people are disinterested in facts < now THAT is a sick thing to enjoy (and make money out of).

    • Dave Simons

      Liam Byrne’s note was nothing more than a Westminster Club in-joke, probably made whenever there is a change of government, and certainly made by Reggie Maudling in 1964 to the in-coming Labour Chancellor. With Cameron being the shallow, a-historical, sound-bite and photo-opportunist that he is, I’m not surprised that he would break unspoken Westminster club rules and start waving Liam Byrne’s note in front of the TV cameras,

      • Ehtch

        An average Tory wouldn’t recognise a joke even if it slapped them across the face like a wet cod.

        • Stripey

          There’s something fishy about that!

      • Michele

        It’s so disheartening that after all these years and all the repeats of the truth it’s the cynical distortion that keeps getting repeated (and those who’re not interested in facts that rant and go beetroot (barf) and pour scorn every time as if it’s news!).

        Now DS, I know you’re not mad keen on RB and neither was I till TREWS (hope I sound trendy 😉 but this is a great edition of it (I’m off to send another = his scathing comments about the i-watch to my son = who’d bedder not really get one!).

      • Stripey

        I don’t think so.

  • Ehtch

    Zero Wanker Hours

    Cameron’s New England,
    and UK.
    Have hand on phone,…

    What a cunt,
    has no idea.
    Twat from arsebreath,
    from some strange planet.

    Millions of money,
    already has generationally inherited,
    and he tells us,
    how to live hand to hand?

    What a gobshite,
    a total tool,
    put him up against the wall,
    and tax him.

  • Michele

    Osborne dribbling on in interview this morning about how they’re paying ’60, 70, 80 thousand per year on some families’ housing benefit’.
    Yes, he did make it sound as if they, not we, are the ones being cheated.

    Surely a ‘clever’ bloke as him knows that the actual recipient of rent is the landlord, the owner (whose 2nd mortgage is being paid by the state) – it is THEY that are cheating benefits, not the renters.
    NO rental home can be worth £1,500pw and NO benefits office should pay such a figure (OR allow tenants to be evicted when a more rational figure is demanded). Wonder how many of govt’s friends are landlords?

  • Nick
  • Michele

    I hope EM does come up with something to turn round his ‘…… it ain’t gonna happen’.
    T’would have been fine in person 1-1 and in private, but ……. hankie in mouth mmmmm

    He still managed to be more likeable and trust-able than ‘our’ two other leaders.

    Fab edition of ‘The Now show’ available for a few days more on Beeb’s iplayer 😉

    • Michele

      First 3mins or so of link are trailers and dribble, if interested it’s poss to scroll through to the programme and a funny spoof of RBrand visit.

    • Michele

      The comments about K Hopkins are perfect.

    • Michele

      Silly comment from me there, EM’s Mockney was more forgivable than my too-frequent attempts at Cornish ooooarrrrrooooahhhhhh

  • Ehtch

    Just my bit of art, on the land of Twitter. : )

  • Ehtch
  • Michele

    Oh dear me, the party led by someone who claims to love the NHS is still finding ways to lie about it.
    WTH can be wrong about the fact that our hospitals have been so-improved in the past 15yrs due to PFI lendings that (naturally enough) have to be paid back?
    How many thousands of people have had surgery in the past ten years that would otherwise still be on waiting lists?
    At what other period in our lifetimes have international interest rates been so low and beneficial to creative minds?
    If PFI deals had not been made when they were do we know by how much prices and interest rates for what has been built would have risen? That should always be the scale on which ‘borow or wait’ is decided.

    Why don’t this Govt get honest and admit WHY they want to criticise and/or flog PFI-funded establishments?
    They tried it with my local hospital which, till early this century was a scruffy shambolic group of old buildings with leaky prefab-type ‘corridors’ linking them but has become a gleaming clean efficient building which they actually had the idiotic audacity to try to sell off a couple of years ago (hush …… for back-handers to send to Jersey?).
    I do feel sorry for Jeremy Hunt, I don’t think any minister has ever looked so miserable and nervous, all that inner cheek chewing; I wonder whether he’ll ever spill the beans about how manipulated he has been.

  • Michele

    The link’s text explains itself :

    Don’t know where I was when this stuff was publicised and have no memory of DC commenting. It’s astounding,

  • Michele

    This is much more interesting yadder

    but OMG have looked at a few blogs of comments re varied RB political youtubes – the trolls are out.

    I really don’t think I’ve ever read verbal violence from lefties at righties (have received some of the opposite and been button-pushed/deleted lots) but there’s lots today re RB’s opinions, some people need to spend the next few days in a cold shower.

  • Well he influenced one voter even if it was only Russell Brand. Actually Russell Brand is exactly the kind of person the party should be reaching out to …those who would vote for it but as so disaffected they think it “makes no difference” because “they’ve all the same”. Say what you like about John Major but he never turned down a good platform even if it meant carrying a soapbox around. Anyway we all remember Cameron sucking up Ross’s jibes on the television even if it’s never been repeated for political reasons.

  • Ehtch

    “where’s my stubby pencil?” What a twat…. NEW VID!

    Labour + SNP (+ PC if needed) in a week. ; ) Centre-Left. xxx kissies.

  • Ehtch

    “Slightly” disorganised in his body language, as usual, but ex-PM Gordon Brown brilliantly gives it full guns, unlike that lame ex-PM wank, John Major, who sounds as if he is always talking about a test match at Lord’s, from last week.

  • Michele

    Re a recent tweet about when did Cameron say he would resign if he didn’t get a workable GE majority, don’t think he could have – given this :

  • Ehtch

    Finally, David Cameron meets the general public. Well, he has to, if he wants to vote for himself.