It's 2016. A man who has previously professed against voting has just won the London Mayoral Election. Russell Brand swooshes his hair and stands up outside City Hall proclaiming; “The Revolution has begun!” People are crying, fists raised in triumph; an eclectic fog has smothered London and Britain is going wild.
Jump back one year.
Brand isn’t just another crazed celebrity turned politico; he has something more significant to say and something bigger to shout than the word ‘FEMINIST’ blazed on world tour screens or a quick foxtrot in the name of a charity fundraiser once a year. He genuinely believes in the hypocrisy of the worldwide politically capitalist system; one that sees over 300,000 Americans incarcerated for drugs possession, when the three previous Heads of State have publicly admitted drugs usage, one that sees those found of committing benefit fraud more besmirched than those known for tax avoidance (the former costs the taxpayer £17 million per year, the latter a staggering £70 billion), and one that sees 870 million people suffer from chronic hunger, with environmental degradation cited as one of the most predominant causes.
Brand ran his Mayoral campaign on these three tickets: drugs (not literally, as he reassures the public in yet another revealing interview with Jeremy Paxman, whom he offered interview exclusivity when he first proposed running), tax, and environmental destruction. But above all, he wants to put a stop to the political and economic elite who purport to “rise the supremacy on a Babylonian tower of cocaine, marijuana, and money like God’s erection thrusting into the heavens.”
His dismay resonates with an increasingly apathetic public, too tired of same-old career politicians blaming immigrants for housing shortages, job losses, and declining education standards, instead of accepting that they haven’t built enough houses, encouraged enough investment in working opportunities, or funded enough schools. As he eloquently claimed once in the New Statesman “young people, poor people, not-rich people, most people do not give a f*** about politics.”
Although we usually presume the 'celeb' to be a nonchalant being without political or moral views, Brand ensures his influence transpires into actions. He is, after all, a human being with troubles and trials of his own, and one who has been honest with them. Addicted to drugs and alcohol, he has been an advocate of treating addicts as people who are ill, not as those who are criminals.
And yet, this all comes from a man who once claimed that he had never voted because “it seems like a tacit act of compliance ... there is nothing to vote for,” a man who advocated Billy Connolly’s quip that “the desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.” If a democracy is truly a system “of the people, by the people, for the people” then, surely, Brand is right to call up intellectual arms. Surely it is better to live in a system that values people over profit, that treats all justly, that invests into health, housing, and education...
This is where Russell Brand will begin. His clampdown on tax avoiders would send a stern message to multinational corporations who feel that they have a right not to contribute to the several societies in which they operate. This would pump money back into a waning London health system which could serve those with addiction in a way to help them rehabilitate, whilst looking to legalise drug use which would help to relieve to victimisation of the most disadvantaged and marginalised in society. Or at least, this is where he hopes to begin. It’s one thing being the Mayor of London, it’s another running the country with a Revolutionary majority in the Commons.
When it came down to who would be his predecessor, Boris was none too pleased. After winning his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat with a majority in 2015, obviously the ultimate testimony of his political prowess (U&SR is one of the safest Tory seats in the country), Johnson couldn’t deal with the fact that everything he had set out to do (or not to do) in London was almost completely reversed. More difficult still, Brand will make it much harder for Boris to ‘revamp the high street’ and ignore the needier in the local area.
When it comes to our current government, one of the most richly educated in the world; a third of MPs went to private school (not including university, which are all private institutions in themselves) and 25% were educated at Oxbridge, comparing to 7% and 1% of the general public respectively, and more the 9 out of 10 MPs have been to university. Brand, on the other hand, went to and then was kicked out of the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, the now academy formerly known as Grays School Media Arts College, and briefly, the Drama Centre, part of the University of Arts.
For a man who never really had a formal education in the humanities, or an upbringing in a healthy and untroubled environment (although, who is?) he has done much more than, quite possibly, any sitting politician in recent years to “encourage [young people] to think about issues such as grotesque inequality, the concentration of wealth and power, and the many injustices that afflict and even define our society.” Although not an academic or expert in the political field, Brand is a comedian who has inspired fervent and impassioned political debate, and it would be unscrupulous to dismiss that.
Jump forward one year to our hypothetical future.
Brand has won his election. He is the Mayor of London. If “the price of privilege is poverty”, as he recognises, then maybe the tides have turned on the one per cent. Maybe, just maybe, the utopia, the revolution is upon us.
By Soila Apparicio