Monday, 4 May 2015

Why Russell Brand is wrong and you should use your vote

I've spent the last 36 years playing rock and roll, running a music studio and organising music gigs, festivals etc. I am by nature a cynic. I've had the misfortune to meet plenty of very uninspiring politicians, who are the opposite of what one may call an advert for the profession. I've had politicians tell me bare faced lies, insult me and even tell lies about me on the radio and TV. This is not a new thing either. When our band toured Sweden in 1981, we were denounced as dangerous by a Swedish politician on national TV, following the disappearance of 2 teenage girls following our gig at the Underground club in Stockholm. We were accused of abducting them and taking them to Finland. When it turned out that they'd simply gone home with boys they'd met at the gig, doing what teenage girls sometimes do,  we did not get an apology for the wild accusations that had been made. The politician simply changed his tack to state we'd encouraged them, by singing permissive music. The whole incident was ultimately rather comical. When we returned to Stockholm, the poor girls mother actually apologised to me in front of TV cameras for the insults she'd made the previous evening. Bearing in mind that we'd been in Finland and hadn't got a clue what all the fuss was about (no moblie phones in 1981), it was rather surreal (the apology was staged by the tour promoter to get us a bit of free publicity). When the full story was told, I felt very sorry for the Mum. She'd been wound up and used by a nasty right wing politician, who was trying to garner support for the 1982 general election there. It was quite funny seeing myself on the Swedish news being asked my opinion of said politician, to which I replied "He's clearly an idiot, I hope no one votes for him" with Swedish subtitles.

Strangely enough what they didn't show was the rest of what I said. I told them that we didn't sing songs urging teenage girls to run off with their boyfriends, we write songs to help people deal with the issues they are facing in their lives, issues which fat, useless politicians don't give a damn about.

Despite my antipathy towards the type of politician who lies, abuses there position and doesn't give a damn about the society they live in, I cannot possibly let Mr Brand have his say without making the point that not only is he wrong, he is what Lenin would call a "useful idiot" for the very powers he claims to be fighting against. In this country there is huge injustice, yet the people at the end of the sword cutting welfare budgets are those least likely to vote. When Russell Brand "whips up apathy", he is not whipping it up amongst the billionaires such as Rupert Murdoch, who ensures his media empire does everything legally allowed to ensure a Conservative victory. It does not whip up apathy amongst rich property owners, who campaign like tigers against a mansion tax, but ignore the people at the bottom being forced out of their homes by the bedroom tax.

Sadly the people most likely to buy into the Russell Brand form of apathy are impressionable teenagers, who are idealistic and impressionable. What Brand is doing is simply removing a whole swathe of voters who care about injustice and the environment from the process, ensuring that those who simply want to maintain the status quo and protect their own privilige.  If you look at countries where there are not democratic elections, they are invariably hell holes. Whatever you think of the UK at the moment, it is one of the best places in the world to live. By not voting as a positive decision, you are in effect lining yourself up with some of the most vicious and repressive regimes in the world.

Brand argues that "voting doesn't make a difference". This is a complete lie and I am sure Russell knows it. I thought I'd make a short list of some of the decisions that have been policies of the Conservative Party and opposed by the Labour party, which have made huge differences to millions of peoples lives. Some are local and some are national issues.

* Closure of Edgware General Hospital. I was born there, my eldest daughter was born there. The Tories shut it, so my next daughter had to be born in Barnet General. As my mum's health failed, I spent many hours in the overloaded A&E dept of Barnet General, which has never been able to cope with the number of people using it following Edgware Closure.

* NHS cuts starving cancer pateints of services. I am under treatment for prostate cancer. Following my last MRI scan in February, I had to have a telephone consultation with someone who wasn't my doctor, because the cuts mean there are too many patients at the Royal Free for the number of doctors available.

* Privatisation of the railways, meaning trains are run largely for the benefit of foreign shareholders. On the Thameslink service, the latest in a long list of useless private contractors are driving the service into the ground. Under BR, Mill Hill Broadway had eight trains an hour in rush hour. Now we are lucky to have five or six and they are all rammed full. Fares now cost a fortune and vicious regimes levy huge fines if you make the slightest mistake or the Oyster reader doesn't read your card properly.

* Students face a massive tax, wrongly called a student loan. The Tories have hiked this so students leave University with tens of thousands of pounds of debt. If tax is on millionaires is bad for the country, how can it be good for students? (Note Brand is a millionaire so likely to benefit from a Tory government). I have two daughters starting Uni in September. Whilst my wife studied Russian for four years and left college with no debt, my daughters will be well and truly shafted.

* The Tories have decimated the supply of social housing. Margaret Thatcher forced councils to sell off council houses and did not allow them use the money raised to build new ones. This means that young people are forced to pay huge rents to private landlords, many of whom are less than scrupulous.

The bottom line is that for the vast majority of people living in this country, health, education, housing and transport are the issues which define the quality of our lives. It could not be clearer that the Tories and Labour have completely different policies and approaches. When a millionaire encourages people not to vote, I always get suspicious. When most of the people he is targeting, will vote against his fiancial interests, I smell a huge rat.

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