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 582.

    Loughton sums up everything that is wrong with the current system. He talks about voting for change and sits in a constituency rated as one of the safest Tory seats in the country. No chance of anyone changing anything there and there are many more seats like it where the bankers, lawyers and career grade party politicians are shoed in to keep the system going the way the super rich want it to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    Don't vote it only encourages them.
    If voting made any difference it would be illegal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    The problem with the 3 main parties is that they put big business, profit and sucking up to the USA first and the people who vote them in, pay the taxes and have to live in the pitiful state they have left this country in a very distant second. That's why we hate them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    Why do we need 650 MP's? I reckon 150 of the lying, cheating, manipulating sleaze balls is plenty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    Please can we put the unelected, manipulative Windsor family as our unbidden, unlikely ambassadors, out to grass, along with the 800 unelected 'Lords' and instigate a new political system which features the people of this country as sovereign?

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    "The trouble is that not enough people bother to go out and elect us." Tim Loughton MP. Typical misinterpretation by ill MP who is probably living in cloud cuckoo land. People are actually bothered, that is why people don't want to vote in the sham which is UK politics. Westminster is not fit for purpose if that purpose be representative democracy. It is great for lining your own pocket though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    Why doesn't everyone join the political party which, in an ideal world, they'd support, and change the people it fields then?

    Seems they've only themselves to blame to me.

    Anyway there are intelligent, balanced, principled people in all the main parties as it is (even if unfortunately all too many lacking at least one of those qualities).

    Arguably the Rifkinds, Darlings, and Cables etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    Politicians, what's not to despise...

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    I don't believe my grandparents died so that I could vote. They died because they were scared into it in order to preserve the perpetual propaganda of ‘the chosen few’.

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    All very interesting I'm sure..

    Meanwhile the BBC reports that Arafat was poisoned:
    We knew over a year ago! And by who!

    What's the Beeb going to reveal next, that "Bin Laden died years ago of kidney failure.." ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    Re: 520 Sadlerorchit

    The first step to solving a problem is identifying the problem, which Russell Brand has tried to do. At this stage, there is no need for him to make suggestions.

    Exile him to North Korea? Very democratic - not

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    OUR democracy has been Hi-jacked by "professional" politicians.

    It is a SHAM and has been dysfunctional because of them for generations..

    Red Ping or Blue Pong it makes no difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    One thing I have noticed over the decades is that politicians especially minister are never wrong, everyone else is.

    For the last two decades that have constantly under minded people like teachers, police, nurses etc by denigrating them. It is little wonder why people of this country have total distrust of anyone in a civil service position and now they are starting on industry leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Everyone who is complaining about the political system needs to just stand at the next election. The thing about our democracy is that you can!

    If it's such a gravy train as people make out, I'm surprised everyone's not racing to stand!

    Sitting there and moaning does no one any good. But, that's the British way - sit there, do nothing, but moan about everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    French 'Revolution'... The Terror anarchy and chaos
    Russian 'Revolution'... 60 years of autocracy and tyranny
    English Civil War or 'Revolution' .. tyranny and religious repression

    Please stop bleating about Revolution when everyone knows it will never happen as long as there is a 'Worthing' mentality in Britain and upper class twits like Loughton to run it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    The problem with politics these days (and the reason I will be using my democratic right to abstain) is that they are either all the same or too extreme.

    The MPs replies to Brand (they just dismiss him) proves his point!

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    The thing is Tory/UKIP voters love being ruled by the Elites and if it was up to many of them we would still be a Feudalist Monarchy.
    People like that will alway's refute the like's of russell Brand because rather than Revolution they want Regression and submissive complacency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    Green bench pantomime?

    Oh no it isn't girls and boys.

    Oh yes it is.

    Osborne must be Mother Hubbard telling us the cupboard is bare.

    Ed Balls is Dick Whittington because he thinks the streets of London are paved with gold. Ed Milliband is both Sheriff of Nottingham & Robin Hood as he takes from the poor to give to the poor.

    While Cameron makes a very good Wishy Washy from Aladin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    I was old enough to vote for the first time in 2010, and couldn't have been more excited about it.

    Three years later, and if there was an election tomorrow, I couldn't care less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    'Yes Minister', HIGNFY, 'The Thick of It', all paint the public perception of parliament: It doesn't matter who's in power, because an all powerful civil service supports minority interests, quashes opposition and takes actions designed to increase GDP, even at the cost of the quality of life for the average man in the street.

    No wonder confidence is low.


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