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
    +2

    Comment number 462.

    They should have "none of the above" on all ballot papers. If this gets the most votes then you have the following options:

    1. Another vote without those candidates.
    2. Another vote without those candidates or their party
    3. No vote and the area not represented by anyone

    I think then the parties would at least try to be different from each other, as they are too similar at the moment.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 461.

    One problem is the political system and the whips, the system that lets big companies and interests fund different parties, they expect something in return which negates any power the voters have. The other problem is gov support of banks, their mirage paper money that is not backed by anything solid, + our huge debt - not worth voting for. We're on our own folks, transition local communities

  • rate this
    +134

    Comment number 460.

    I rarely agree with anything that Russell Brand has to say but on this occasion I do and with Jeremy Paxman.

    We should not have MP's who have not had 'proper' jobs outside politics, lobbying and PR for at least two years. Certainly not straight from the cosy world of education.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 459.

    Oxbridge keep churning out sociopaths and we keep voting for them. Until that changes why should they? I think they know the games is up - just need the baby boomers out the way who are desperate to cling onto their 2 cars and houses. The generations that followed have nothing so we have nothing to lose

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 458.

    441. PrincessMT

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

    _______

    ...which would be ignored.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 457.

    Power is usurped by division and the current system of ‘us & them’ party politics works well for the ultra-wealthy, who inevitably call the shots with their (not too) subtle ‘influence’. We all know that true democracy would be free from hidden agendas, but we currently feel helpless to bring meaningful change.

    I believe the internet will be instrumental in bringing that change.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 456.

    Margaret Hodge says of her constituents that 'she can't address the national issues that worry them'

    Well if an MP (and she was part of the previous gov't for 13 years) can't do anything about the national issues that worry us then what hope have we got.

    Maybe that's the crux of the problem

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 455.

    #336
    Your second point is a bit idealistic. MPs should be voting in direct accordance with constituent attitudes, but given the geographical variation of deprivation across the country this probably wouldn't achieve much even if it did happen. If investment is inherently spatially varied, how can the grievances of one constituency be aligned with the grievances of another?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 454.

    The problem is as Winston Churchill said
    "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter"

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 453.

    How much would it cost and how much time would it take to get a new party elected? That's the problem, the existing parties have too much control and power - it's like the big energy companies, all you you can do is switch even if you don't like what they are doing you still need energy, there's no real choice. Our democracy has become too old and set in it ways.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 452.

    Three top of the range mps discussing the views of two celebs. Just about sums the thinking in and the way decisions are made in this country.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 451.

    Brand and Paxman seem to have suspicions of others which are soundly based upon knowledge of themselves.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 450.

    Why people think Brand needs to come up with a better soloution is crazy! He was just pointing out why noone is voting!! Why the young dont vote, because nothing changes and they get blame for everything. Ive been able to vote for the last 14yrs and im sure not once has it mattered! Untill next year when we vote for Independance.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 449.

    Russell Brand telling people not to vote isn't the answer. The best "protest" you can make at the ballot box is to spoil your ballot paper if you don't wish to vote for any of the candidates. Imagine if the 25%-35% of non voters actually went to the polling station and spoiled their ballots, that would send a powerful message. Maybe compulsory voting is the answer?

  • Comment number 448.

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

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 447.

    I like the 18th century French view of how to deal with the elite. The sooner the better in this country.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 446.

    Why can't politicians, from the leaders to the grass roots, be HONEST?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 445.

    chris berridge you are the one who doesn't get it. MP's are not delegates. You vote for the one whose views, or whose party's views appeal to you, but when it come to a vote in the House, MP's are supposed to use their heads.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 444.

    I am concerned that so many of those commenting support the rants of people like Brand and Paxton. Frightening.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 443.

    Apologies to 'weary hard-working journalists', damned for never giving 'ordinary hard-working people' that mythic chance, to ask citizen-equality for themselves or at least their children. So comprehensive our 'education', so blinkered our view of life, thought is limited to 'which party?' or whether 'in abstention, hope or despair?' Though marriage and amicable business teach equal partnership...

 

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