Newsnight - Paxman vs. Brand. Full interview

Is he simply given airtime due to his standing in the entertainment industry or is Brand making sense?

Mark, I have been part of the campaign to stop party and electoral candidate sponsorship since the early 1970s. The Electoral Reform Society wants to see representative democracy suitable for the 21 century. It was founded in 1884 as the Proportional Representation Society. Since 1983 the ERS has beenrecognised by the United Nations Economic and Social Council as a Non-Governmental Organisation with consultative status. There is also ERIS (Electoral Reform International Services) set up in 1991 to give support and assistance in conducting elections worldwide, especially to encourage democracy and proportional representation.

ERS stands on the principle that every vote and every voice has value and should be heard and that everyone, without exception, should be able to shape the decisions that affect their lives. Our institutions and political parties should reflect the people they serve and people should be able to hold those elected and therefore in power to account, moreover politics should offer people real rather than 'promised' alternatives that are seldom if ever at all honoured.

The problem is that those in office have sometimes been ERS friendly before being elected then have turned against them. It is always portrayed as a kind of exclusive 'club' that attracted academics, intellectuals, lawyers and Conservative and Liberal MPs but rarely those from the 'left' since Labour and socialist parties have their own 'policies' on electoral reform. Whilst I more or less belong to the 'academic' category, I am also by my confession far to the left of the established so-called socialist parties and have total distaste for the communist parties past and present who are anything but democratic socialists as their founder would have seen them become. The ERS lacks a big enough membership and support that is above party differences and yet has the experience and knowledge to achieve change, indeed succeeded in getting STV introduced in local elections in Ireland and campaigned successfully for the introduction of STV for local elections in Scotland.

Democracy, and let us for get the 200 years of Athenian democracy which does not fit in the modern world for a whole number of complicated reasons anyway, is to a very large extent used rhetorically to give the impression things are done for and in the name of the people, but is rarely practised in reality. The present government would like to introduce Individual Electoral Registration, which they described as democratic, under which the Electoral Commission estimated as many as 10 million voters could disappear from the electoral roll, mainly poor, young or black, and more likely to vote Labour than any other party. There we have a point where Brand is very wrong because not voting would help achieve IER since Tory voters are those most likely to turn out and, thus far, Lib Dems have a fairly good track record. There is democracy out of the window for starters. t is all far more complicated than an anarchic comedian can tell us.

As for the dichotomy between state and corporation ownership, yes. It is not just and anti-capitalist position but also about democracy - taking and selling what belongs to the people with no returns or benefit for them to begin with and as for loss of control in the operation, the less said.

With journalists, there are still many with integrity who will not sell their souls. Brooks, Coulson and the others are an example of them bowing to the will of owners and let this case at present give the likes of Murdoch a serious warning. But then with what we are hearing about security services we should be looking at the nations we live in first and foremost.

I like the sound of that Mark. And, having had journalist and newspaper friends (before Murdoch pulled the rug on them) I know for a fact that what you say in your reply to Brian is absolutely accurate. I am no fan of the "News of the World" six but I don't actually believe they woke up one day and decided it might be fun to tap phones. No, they were under the cosh and would do anything to save their, albeit cushy well paid, jobs. So, lead me to the barricades, I am your woman.

In reply to Norah Baxter: Nationalised companies are still profit making entities, they just put it back into the company after paying taxes instead of paying dividends to the owners. As the owners are now us, then the taxes they pay are in fact the dividends. This also means that prices are under government control. The East Coast main line is presently in govt hands and it is well-managed and making decent money. The idiots want to privatise it again, because they don't want anyone to notice that it is going well as a nationalised industry.

One point Brand made was about the nature of democracy. The ancient Greeks, the inventors of the thing, did not have this problem because there was no voting. Parliament was made up of members of the public chosen by lottery, in the same way as jury service. Imagine the difference to the whole democratic environment. The other, less violent way of doing it would be to stop all private funding of parties, they would only get money from the state, ie, the public. This would be based on a number of factors, among which the current size of the party. Or cut funding altogether and only allow them to use membership fees from individuals, no corporate memberships allowed. They would be obliged to take much more notice of members of the public's views.

John Pilger too

Brian, James Bloodworth is a freelancer probably precisely to avoid editorial control. If he were a staffer at any Murdoch publication, for example, then the subs would adjust his copy till it conformed to the owner's line.

It is said that if prostitution is the oldest profession, then politics must be the least honourable and, furthermore, no self respecting parent would want his/her child to enter into politics. It is clear that Russell Brand shares that view.

Geoff, yes but the owners are one thing and editors another. Ask journalists how much influence is imposed on them and I doubt you will get an answer that confirms your line exactly. Certainly among the few I know, some of whom have been quite big names in their time or are still big hitters (I taught a couple of them as undergraduates even), they would laugh at that. I imagine James Bloodworth has written his own thoughts rather than playing the tune his big bosses would demand.

I agree with Geoff, and their blogger obviously has a problem with someone being able to use words with more than four letters.
Comparing Brand to Clarkson (a middle aged cranky has been, with the intellect of softening butter, and the charm of a wet tea bag) is like comparing one of the kardashians to Carol Vorderman.... out of context, and just not quite right.

as I said in my first post - look at the media owners in order to get a clue as to what they advocate.

The Spectator owners have a wealth of £2.25 Bn. - oh, and of course they live in the Channel islands and Monaco to avoid taxes. I guess they are not going to encourage revolution.



The Spectator story gets a big like from me anyway. Totally agree with it.

The other side of the coin

In response to responses on this and due to the fact that it seems to be the norm here educationally for children/young adults to choose their careers/future life/work at 14; saying that Russell Brand is 14 means that he has the ability to choose therefore. And let's face it one year later at 15 they have reached the age of consent and we all know where that leads. On a heavier note I do feel that Mr Brand is right in an awful lot of what he says but that it is not just the young who are disaffected there are a lot of upper age people here in Europe who feel the same way as he does. To be honest I feel that is why a lot of us came to live in France because we could smell the **** that was going to happen and we bury ourselves here and try to make a living.

My goodness that man is articulate. (Brand not Paxman!). I had no idea. However, I think what Brand advocates is a form of Marxism, a utopian state. But unfortunately that has been seen not to work because human greed and love of power always gets in the way. Perhaps refusing to vote for any of the shower presented to us is the answer. Of course I love Brand's philosophy, who wouldn't? But the one question I would have asked and, strangely, Paxman did not, is who will pay for this utopian State? If the large corporations make no profit, who will employ us the workers? And if we are unemployed how can we pay taxes? I am not as clever as either of these gentleman (by a long way) but to me the question always comes back to this. If someone can give me the answer to this I say "Up the Revolution, Joe for King".

Zoe, if you note that all of the air time that Brand is getting is with interviewers who attempt to get him to call for that programmed emotional trigger word "Revolution." They want to get him to commit to a position of calling for violence in the streets - then he can be demonized as a "terrorist." He's far too clever to fall into that trap. He mops the floor with those presenters who have been thus tasked and turns the table on them. He's no doubt driving our media social engineers to gnashing of teeth and rending garments. Good on ya, Russell! These demented keepers of the status quo have had it far too easy for far too long... and the current status quo really sucks.

I like Brand... what I don't like is the women I know that are all "ooohhh, I just LOVE Russelllll, he's so wonderfullll"... yet these airheads don't know where he stands on the simplest of things. I didn't know who he was until I saw an interview with him and some American TV show anchors, where he tells is like (how I see) it is, and they really all seemed not to get it.

The reason he is given the airtime is beyond me, because all other people in the public eye who have tried to say similar have been ridiculed, and have had their careers ruined by the mass media.
Maybe it's only a matter of time.

Some very good points, Geoff. The New Statesman invited Brand to edit this month's issue. He has the lead article. It is a poignant and humorous read. It also stresses the fact that Brand's call for "revolution" seems to push a lot of hot buttons emotionally programmed to interpret that word as bomb throwing anarchists in the streets, when I read it as a call for raising consciousness and awareness of our objective reality. A revolution of consciousness. Here is the link to this latest broadside from Brand. It is a longish read, but I find it as amusing as it is poignant.

Good Heavens! Are you people we cannot trust our Media or our Politicians? Good Grief, I am shocked and stunned, even stunned and shocked!

I agree Véro, he is just an overgrown juvenile (I said immature before, but OK) but with an ego like an airship - huge, is inflated, full of gas and floats in the air.

Age is a relative thing - I teach lycéens and some of them are very obviously 9 and some are about 70 - I still maintain Russell Brand is 14 ;-)