Today Russell Brand reversed his previous decision about participating in the election, and despite acknowledging earlier the radical characteristics of the Green Party, encouraged his followers to vote for Miliband’s Labour Party – everywhere apart from Caroline Lucas’ constituency of Brighton Pavilion.
Brand’s main argument is that the Greens by their own admission are disadvantaged by the current electoral system and would be unable to form a government in this election, and so to prevent the Tories remaining in power, vote Labour. Though there may be many disagreeable Labour policies that Brand could ‘have a go’ at Miliband about, this is the key issue.
However, for those of us who have watched Labour turn from any vestige of principle to further and further right of centre, there are now red lines that we cannot cross. Things like: ideological austerity and the £30bn in additional cuts that Labour have signed up to; the overwhelming focus solely on ‘working families’ and their stated abandonment of the poor; continued Goveism extended into teacher ‘MOTs’; Trident and interventionism; fracking, road building, airport expansion and HS2. These are not mere quibbles. Nor do we believe that a party that now sets policy according to executive decision, focus groups and the populism of the Daily Mail is likely to pay any attention to its base support or protest groups – particularly when its current drive to the right has been seemingly endorsed by the electorate.
Brand’s sudden volte-face isn’t just unexpected in that it goes against everything he has previously exhorted in his public appearances at rallies for the People’s Assembly, what he wrote in his book and said in The Trews – it appears cynically staged. The way the remaining part of his interview with Miliband was held back until now, less than three days before the election, doesn’t appear the work of some radical revolutionary but the design of a professional campaign manager. Has Brand’s appropriation by the Establishment been that complete? Are his Revolution and the Trews now reduced to the same status as the fawning celebrity millionaire endorsements of Steve Coogan and Martin Freeman?
Does Brand really believe that the Ed Miliband who carves ‘immigration control’ in stone, who would rather see Cameron in office rather than do any kind of deal with the SNP, who believes in the ‘contributory principle’ – would spare even 5 minutes for the E15 mothers? He couldn’t even been bothered supporting the CARE UK strikers despite some of them being his own constituents! Nicknamed ‘Red Ed’ by the Tory press, the Labour party he leads shares nothing but the name with the party that fought for worker’s rights and established the welfare state.
What’s worse, is that if we follow the same idea of voting for the ‘lesser evil’, then the status quo will never change, and Brand’s revolution will be dead in the water – the real momentum and thirst for change, the reawakening of the political zeal we cheered with the Indyref, will once again be proved ineffectual and pointless. And thereby ultimately defeating his entire campaign, both now and in the future.
I was at the Class Conference at the TUC last year, where the anger of Labour supporters and trade unionists about the way their party was headed was nothing less than visceral. Policies they wanted to see, as I noted at the time, were things like free education and nationalizing the railways – all established Green policies. Yet I’ll bet these supporters won’t be voting Green or even TUSC – they’ll be ‘holding their noses’ and voting Labour again. And instead of going back to their communities, shop floors and offices and advising their comrades to engage with the policies and vote with their consciences, these members of the Labour base will be blindly voting Labour once again, without even knowing that the party their grandfathers fought for no longer exists.
And so I’d ask again, whilst activists (and I’d include brand and Owen Jones in this) continue to support the status quo just to keep out the Tories, they would have no progress made, no revision of policy, no groundswell of protest against the executive, and the biggest winners from all this? The Tories. They win all ways – by keeping down the proles and using Labour to ‘mitigate their expectations’, and by shifting Labour more and more into a carbon-copy of the Tory party.
The revolution Brand and Jones have betrayed is not just the one that they have helped foster. A phrase that Jones uses often is, ‘we stand on the shoulders of giants’. It is also their revolution that we betray by voting for the status quo.
So I would say, the time for real revolution in politics is now. We have the potential for an influential anti-austerity alliance to pull the Labour party back to the left, a true Green Surge which makes the Greens the third biggest national party in the UK and the biggest Green Party in all of Europe. Brand thinks you should vote Green for Caroline Lucas. But we have the real possibility of two or three more Carolines in parliament backed up by scores if not hundreds of councilors. Looking at all the things that one Green MP achieved, think what could be done by even two more. That’s what we have to achieve, and we can only do it with the courage and conviction to make REAL change and make it now. There will never be a better time.