Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Russell Brand and 2011

In 2011 a lush green pasture of possibility lay before us. Alongside local elections we were given the opportunity to change the way that our lawmakers were elected, ensuring that once and for all a well supported but otherwise net-unpopular MP could no longer "represent" us in our constituency. A positive result would have given more weight and momentum to the second part of the revolutionary change to our politics that would ensure no small voice would be left unheard, no doubt allowing Labour to jump properly on the bandwagon instead of stalking it; the change from our Lords as an unelected body to one that is elected in proportion to our political views.

Fast forward past the unsuccesful result, one that in my opinion actually did more harm than if we had never had the referendum in the first place, to the modern day where one Russell Brand is touting a democratic and constrained revolution of our interaction with the state. I don't disagree with him in general terms, but then I also voted in 2011 to say "Yes" to a new voting system.

There are those out there championing Brand right now, probably not as the instigator of these ideas...he says himself that is too false and lofty an accolade for him to claim...but as a figure that is focusing the issue of disenfranchisement in the UK political system. I'm glad, we need people to be actively thinking about how the state and the people form their contract, and how they continue their interaction; but at the same time I'm frustrated. Where were all these voices in 2011?

As some on Twitter have suggested, perhaps the voices were fooled by a successful No campaign, confused by an awful Yes campaign, or otherwise convinced by the media of the pointlessness of the exercise. Perhaps they wanted to stick a finger or two up at Clegg and his "broken promise" on tuition fees (a perfect example of where people need to think of the wider and longer term impact of political policies rather than headlines). If any of the above are true it saddens me.

There was a long lead up, long enough for someone who is so disenfranchised that they are willing to peg their flag to the mast of "revolutionary" change in Brand's vision, in which to educate yourself about what was going on. Listening to the papers, to the campaigns even without an objective and scrutinising eye, is just not the sort of thing a "revolutionary" should be engaging in!

Worse still though, if you hate the idiocy of party politics (I know I do), and how closely they are all aligning with each other, then why the hell you thought that punishing one party, for genuinely putting together the first policy in god knows how long that would have a direct and positive impact on the level of power you hold over the politicians, would alter or even reverse that trend...well, I can't even find words to describe the idiocy.

I don't pull my punches here for good reason (in other words, sorry if I've hurt your feelings 2011 non-voter). I don't think that people who claim to want to find a better way should be let off lightly for playing by the rules of the organisations and structures that they claim to want to break free from. Paying lipservice to the idea of change while falling into the comfort and convenience of education by soundbite, and the self-gratification of vengeful and partisan based decision making, is nowhere near good enough. Not good enough for us, not for future generations.

I'm on board with the sentiment that Brand is espousing right now, the system is awful. We elect people every 5 years in a process that, outside of a real revolution of opinion and thinking, only a small minority of the country will actually influence. We have our legislation overseen by appointed old men (by and large) that, if they can be bothered to turn up to do their job and stay awake while doing so, have an intermittent record on scrutiny. The idea that our government or parliament are in any meaningful way "accountable" is a joke and shouldn't be entertained. Worse still this government has actively rolled out programs that have similarly lessened accountability around the country with directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners and Mayors.

If you don't feel like voting then in all honesty I don't blame you and, unlike the myriad of celebrities and political journalists/bloggers trying to say that not voting is wrong or right, I think that's your choice...the system doesn't give you power through your vote, it just enables an unaccountable body (the cabinet/government is usually formed of people that have friends in the right places of their party, not the people that are best for the job or that the wider public may want) to make decisions as they see fit for 5 years, usually on the basis of advice and lobbying by a different and even more unaccountable set of people in the form of wealthy political backers, large business or civil servants.

But despite all of this, I don't trust anything to change any time soon. Things are relatively good for UK citizens, by and large, and people that have it good don't tend to care too much for real revolution, even if they feel awfully bad about all the stuff happening to the poor and the young. 2011 was evidence that when handed the opportunity, we the people are unable to act maturely and intelligently enough with the chance we are given; this is when the opportunity is essentially black and white and with clear outcomes.

No revolution will come, if the basic logic of taking the opportunity to tell the state exactly your preference of representative where you live, and as a constituency get a guaranteed best match amongst the opinions of your peers (aside from one mathematically gymnastical scenario), is too much for people to understand, or if abandoning their desires to stick it to the "other team" is too enticing...what hope is there for some as yet undefined new way to come about? If people are too content in life, in general, to rock the boat then what hope is there to engage people as would be required to make such new ways legitimate? If the only options the disenfranchised are willing to take are ones that are somehow not offered or co-opted by the establishment, how can any new way ever form?

The one thing Brand is absolutely right about is that change happens most readily when there is a fundamental gap between the power of the state and it's people; maybe in the future, after another decade or more of assaults on those without jobs, those who happen to be under 25, and those with disabilities continuing, the disparity between the government and it's people will be large enough for change to come.