Viewpoints: Do MPs agree with Brand and Paxman?

Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    It's really quite simple. Make all political party manifestos legally binding; this would bring back trust into the political system as the voter would know exactly what they are voting for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    If you can't be bothered to vote, then you don't get a say. Sorry!

    If you are disllusioned with all the candidates, then go and spoil your ballot paper, but you have to go!

    If we had a 90-odd% turnout election, with a high proportion of spolied papers, that would send out a clear message.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    I live in a Welsh council of RCT. RCT have just proposed a £56m cut in the services that they provide. I admit in the past my apathy for political change has stopped me engaging in how my community can make a difference. Last week this apathy stopped. I am now trying to enpower my community to help each other. Will it make a difference, I don't know, but we will have tried.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    If not, why do MPs follow the party line and vote with the government when they know that the majority of their constituents do not agree with that particular motion?"

    In most cases because the motion in question was in the manifesto that those constituents signed upto when they voted for that MP and that party. In other cases because the national interest trumps populism (as it should).

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    quite a few posts regards his lack of insight into what the alternative could be. i share the same views, as do millions of other normal working britons, i too dont know how we could revolutionise the system etc. he was expressing his view. fair play, i like him. bearing in mind london have boris, an egit as mayor !

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    There is a real problem in that the majority of us who live in safe seats are effectively disenfranchised. The constituency I live in has been Tory since 1910 apart from about 2 months in 1997 when it was held by the Referendum Party. Everyone knows nothing will change, therefore there is in effect no purpose in voting. And the media, the parties all focus on the important seats, which may change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Vested interests have destroyed democracy. You can vote for this or that party because you feel strongly about some policy or other then the fat cats and powerful change the MPs mind and you find yourself with an MP or party that you might have voted for but are dismayed by what they are doing. So you get angry but the entire thing goes on unchecked.

    Consensus was the best thing we had.

  • Comment number 435.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.


    What a ludicrous logic. One votes for what one believes in, or believe is best. The object of voting isn't just to participate in the act of voting but to express an opinion. If no choice is provided, why vote? By your reasoning even if only one candidate stands you should vote for them.

  • Comment number 433.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Listen to any Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Just listen to it. The whole thing is disgusting. Why would I even think of voting for any one of these people? Answer - I don't but I do spoil my voting paper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    And Russell Brand is whiter than white?...

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    It was disappointing that the referendum on alternative voting went the way it did, although the choice on offer was limited. That pretty much put any further discussion of change off the menu. We need the option the non-voter wants: "none of the above" and a minimum threshold for election. If the threshold is not met, we should select interim representatives for a year with the Jury system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Clowns and worse.

    Too much Parliamentary and Media time is devoted to none issues like Scottish Devolution and an EU Referendum.

    Meanwhile 2.49 Million are unemployed, at least half that number are strapped for cash. When couples working full time would struggle to find an extra £10 and are on in work benefits the Country really is Donald.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    My word, just look at these three Mp's. They look SO out of touch with the real world. Even the way they dress, its represents such a culture we seem to be fighting against - OLD SCHOOL

    I am a voter, I am looking for something I can believe in, I am looking for radical change in how we operate out polictics.
    Please anyone, if you are listeneing....make yourself heard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Brand the schoolboy error of pointing out that the current political system is broken, without being able to suggest an alternative.

    Disengaging with the problem by refusing to vote is never going to provide a solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Paid just over £63,000 a year plus expenses, they still expect a majority of us to exist on the NMW. They swap second homes to avoid tax, when they sell it. Seem to think they are above the law, then wonder why we the electorate are suspicious of them. A clueless bunch you'd be hard pushed to find anywhere. Out of touch? most certainly. Caring? only when it comes to claiming expenses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    All Mp's lie. They make decision that don't affect themselves. Take the HS2, if Cameron lived in the path of HS2 it wouldn't be going ahead, if Osborne lived near a proposed 4th runway at heathrow it would have been binned long ago. Poilitians have no loyalty to anyone apart from those big business's that are giving them backhanders. I won't be voting in any elections anymore. I don't trust them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    Funny how the MPs dont seem to understand the difference between democracy and an elected dictatorship...
    We dont have democracy in this country - never had and never will until the present system is replaced..

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Al of the North
    You've gotta laugh at Brand - he gets sober after years on drink and drugs and is now he's on our telly's lecturing us about democracy....

    Er, Al. It was his democratic right to get plastered and high! And I don't blame him. You clearly read the Daily Mail if you think these choices invalidates his opinion!


Page 62 of 84


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.