Viewpoints: Do MPs agree with Brand and Paxman?

Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman

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BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman has condemned the "green-bench pantomime in Westminster" and comedian Russell Brand has criticised "the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class". BBC Radio 4's PM programme asked three MPs for their views on voter apathy.

Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham
Tim Loughton Mr Loughton is a former children's minister who worked as a banker before entering Parliament

Like it or not, most people's lives are run by political decisions and those political decisions are made by politicians that you elect.

The trouble is that not enough people bother to go out and elect us.

There's a cynicism; we don't help ourselves. Interestingly, last night I was at a dinner and an MP got up and the first thing she said was: "Before I was an MP I had a proper job." She was a youth worker.

We're actually quite self-deprecating and that plays into the hands of cynical people, of which I would count Jeremy Paxman, who have this caricature of politicians as a bunch of duplicitous so-and-sos on some big gravy train, living the life of Riley.

Actually being an MP is a job, it's an exceptional job, and most of us spend an awful lot of time, blood, sweat and tears, putting a lot of effort into it.

I don't mind people attacking my political policies, and they can say I've got it absolutely wrong over certain things I've been doing in my constituency, or in Westminster - but this constant attack that actually all MPs are duplicitous, and we're just on this gravy train and we're good for nothing, and it's all a pantomime is deeply undermining of the democratic process, and can only switch people off from bothering to vote, particularly young people.

That's why barely 40% of young people at the last election who were able to vote for the first time - 18 to 24-year-olds - actually bothered to vote, and that really is worrying for the future.

[Russell Brand is] deeply destructive, actually. Watching that interview with Jeremy Paxman he's very amusing, very articulate, but it's deeply destructive, the influence on young people who think, "Gosh, Russell said we shouldn't bother to vote, let's not vote".

The way not to get [turnout] to improve is to say, it's all a waste of time and to go on the champagne anarchist ego trip that Russell Brand is on. That really doesn't help.

Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking
Margaret Hodge Ms Hodge is the chair of the Commons public accounts committee

I did some work at the beginning of the century, in 2001, when the turnout in my constituency was particularly low.

What I found was that people weren't apathetic about voting, they were angry. It was anger not apathy that motivated them.

The problem really is that we tend to set our agenda from the Westminster bubble, so what concerns us here in Westminster.... we really don't listen, and we really don't connect to people in the community enough.

So I've completely changed the way I do my politics from that experience.

Now the first thing I do is listen, and people's politics really starts from the local, they care about what's happening in their home, and in their local community.

Quite often I can't address the national issues that worry them: I couldn't address the issues about immigration in Barking before the last election, or the lack of social housing.

But I could address the issues about the post boxes, where they were sited, or whether the rubbish was collected, or whether we had prostitution on the street corner.

When I started addressing those issues that really concerned them, I connected with local people, I started to build trust, and I then got people voting again and voting for me, and seeing off [2010 BNP general election candidate for Barking] Nick Griffin.

Whilst Russell Brand may be right to be fed up, the answer is not revolution.

Sir Menzies Campbell, Lib Dem MP for North East Fife
Sir Menzies Campbell Sir Menzies is a former Lib Dem leader who competed as a sprinter in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

There are no great divides in principle between the three parties.

By and large we're all in favour of the mixed economy, we're all by and large - with some exceptions - in favour of state education, the kind of things which were battles between different parties have disappeared.

In addition to that, politics has become a question of management: can you manage the economy better than I can?

The third thing, rather paradoxically, is that the information technology revolution has meant that the age of deference has been swept aside, and I'm in no doubt whatsoever that there were people in the House of Commons 20, 30, 40 years ago who were a lot less than the perfect MP, but of course in those days no-one knew.

On the whole question of executive pay: 50 years ago, my mother wouldn't have had the slightest idea what the director general of the BBC was paid, and she wouldn't have thought it was her business, but now because information is better available people are better informed and inevitably people are less charitable.

[Russell Brand showed] a real lack of self-awareness: everything's wrong, but absolutely no suggestions as to how it would be put right.

If Russell Brand were the prime minister, imagine what kind of country it would be - if you possibly can.

The text in this article is abridged from a panel discussion on BBC Radio 4's PM programme.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    So whats this, Russell Brand is making a foray into the political fold?

    Where do we go from here?

    Pretty soon Jeremy Clarkson will be throwing his hat into the ring, and then this country truly will be doomed.

    It could be worse though, I don't believe Richard Hammond has shown any political tendencies as yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    299. People don't vote because (a) we make it inconvenient to do so and (b) they don't think that their vote will count.
    a) If you can't vote in person, there's always the postal vote. I hardly find posting a letter incovenient. If even that is too much effort, you're clearly not taking it seriously.
    b) I agree, FPTP is rubbish. Yet the public voted to keep it. Go figure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    If they wanted to get people involved then party funding should be based on the NUMBER of votes at elections and paid for from taxes, and donations to party funds banned.

    If there's a large turn out then you get good funding, even if you get a good showing across the country but no seats, well you just got good funding.. so you can now campaign for your causes.

    Then ALL votes have value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    I think Brand has made a valid point.
    No point voting for LibLabCon anymore, so who do we have left....
    Greens will get my vote. C Lucas's actions speak louder to me than words!

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    If Menzies Campbell does not understand what makes a mixed economy he should go back to school. Surely he must be referring to a re-balanced economy. Margaret Thatcher began the process of dismantelling our mixed economy, a job carried on by successive governments of all complexions. Change only comes through revolution and one is long overdue to our broken political system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    How can you expect people to vote for their chosen party when the liberal democrats betrayed everyone who supported their liberal values ,when they got into bed with the Tories. What is the point in voting when your party betrays you!!! That is not democracy; when your party sides with the opposing party just to gain some power. No wonder people are disenchanted with politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    "The trouble is that not enough people bother to go out and elect us."

    Typical arrogance - the problem is that not many people at all want to vote for you but they don't have any choice.

    Three identikit clones, a left/right wing nutter or scribble on the ballot paper and be branded a mal-content, what sort of choice is that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    Russell Brand almost makes me feel sorry for politicians and his past history including the phone calls to Andrew Sachs leaves me feeling that he has absolutely no moral authority to make such comments. I wouldn't be a politician and I don't think many others would - you are on a hiding to nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    85.Mike from Brum
    ... there should be a box on all voting slips that says "None of these candidates are worth my vote".
    Good idea but we will never see it as the current system allows the winning candidate to claim that he/she has a mandate. However, no-one can stop you from deliberately spoiling your ballot paper, it amounts to the same thing and it has to be counted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    The main parties have had their day. In my lifetime nothing has changed, we vote them in we vote them out and the same issues that made the headlines years ago are still making the same headlines today. Over the years the UK has been sold out and there is not much left worth having we can call English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    This country suffer from the quantity not quality of politians.They look the same say the same things and do the same things.The facts speak for themselves people will not buy the product politic in its present form.Our political system is a museum piece.Our vote is meaningless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Vote for what exactly? Tweedle Dum (C) or Tweedle Dummer (L). they are all the same. every term - we promise this, that, the other. Every term, (whichever party is in) doesnt deliver. The opposition criticises them and they get in and guess what? they promise, this that and the other. And what do they deliver? Nothing. But taxes go up, NHS gets worse, MoD gets worse & Immigration gets worse!

  • Comment number 310.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Why no HYS regarding BAE ?

    We all know the politicians are a lying and corrupt lot.

    I don't need Russell Brand to tell me that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    Politics today is solely about vested interest and I don't mean party interests. Politicians are only in office to further their own ends and personal financial interests. They are not in politics to serve they are solely there for selfish motives. The well-being of the electorate and the needs of the country always come a very poor second to the personal desires of our elected politicians. SHAME!

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    I found out today from the House of Commons Information Office that MP's are under NO legal obligation to reply to letters, complaints or concerns that constituents send them. It seems there are NO rules starting how long an MP is allowed to take to reply (assuming the reply at all) as each MP has their own office and runs it how THEY want.
    For goodness sake, what the hell is going on in the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    I'm not influenced by what any beardy-weirdy has to say. Or Russell Brand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Brand was one of those people that the Daily Mail does not agree with, you know that British backing newspaper that also hates the BBC. Where the owners have a dubious history of political support and tax paying....So anyone that is against that mob of elitist cronies gets my vote. BUT a revolution would be a good thing. Depose the Tories and their corrupt cronies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    if people unhappy with the way this country is run and the political parties we have, not voting is not the answer. If all those who disagree with the effectiveness and politics of Westminster then go to the polls and and spoil the voting paper. Everyone spoiled is counted and published. That way our voice is heard, doing nothing our voice is silenced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    The problem with politics in this country is politicians.


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