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
    -1

    Comment number 1662.

    SACK THEM ALL NOW

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1661.

    And I just hate it when ultra rich celebrities sit in their Ivory Towers pontificating on what the lower echelons of society should do

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1660.

    Well done Russell Brand
    my suggestion is that people from all walks of life and from all communities should be able to sit in parliament we do not have enough working class and people that actually have struggled to make ends meet sitting in that building.
    almost all of them have their own buisnesses and have never struggled for money or worried how to put food on the table.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1659.

    # economaster :

    Thank you for your suggestion that I should "look up the meaning of democracy". As an academic who has studied Graeco-Roman political history for 45 years, I shall act upon your excellent advice. May I suggest that you in turn brush up on elementary punctuation in order to improve the coherence of your 'arguments'? Then there will be no need to use capital letters arbitrarily.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1658.

    1657.economaster

    All I can say is that, in the constituency where I live, I doubt that there are 100 truly active members across all main parties incuding Drist and County Councillors.
    The conservatives are holding an open primary to elect their canditate for the next election because, they say, their membership is too low.

    http://www.wealdenconservatives.com/news/you-choose

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1657.

    @ mayfield seriously what are u talking about? small number of people, not privaleged?

    are u talking about civil servants? I know exactly how our local and national government works. You are simply wrong. Look at the socioeconomic and libeage of our current MPs. Since u just state falsehoods I will say goodbye. u need to invest in some facts

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1656.

    It's just the new in thing to be "disatisfied/disengaged" with politics. If people are too dumb to care about the big issues that effect them, then they probably shouldn't vote anyway. I for one am thankful that Brand and the rest of his ilk don't skew election results.

    Also for those wanting more options, you get more options, there are 100's of parties in the UK, you just don't vote for them.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1655.

    1653.fletcher

    Have you tried to connect with them? When I was that age there were active Young Socialists, Young Cons and Young Libs. Now there are not enough to support these organisations and any young activist would be welcome into the main party; and yes they would be listened to and welcomed with open arms. Alas too few.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1654.

    Unfortunately, on the latest ballot papers there is not enough room for me to write my normal vote i.e. A box with the candidate - "None of these turkeys" and a broad 'X'.

    Therefore I am constrained to make such other observations as I am able.

    How unfair. At the very least there should be a facility for a vote for 'None of the Above' for disenfranchised voters such as I.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1653.

    This article completely misses the point of the whole issue. Who cares what people in power think of the 18-24 age groups needs, have they actually tried to connect with us in any way? All we get is 'you have to be this/that/the other' and then people wonder why nobody really cares any more

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1652.

    1650.economaster
    I repeat, you really do not understand how few people are actively involved in politics. There are only a small number who select the candidates and they really are not from any privileged group. I think this applies to all the major parties.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1651.

    Plato had a novel approach to what he called 'The Guardians' i.e. what we would call MP's. He said they shouldn't be paid and should do the job out of a sense of duty. This would get rid of the gravytrainers. Perhaps we could allow them the national average wage on the condition they spent half their time doing socially-useful jobs e.g. refuse collection. They would then meet their public.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1650.

    . not really, because those already on the inside are from a select privaleged group. they are intrtested in maintaining the status quo. within the system, which average jo couldnt break into anyway, he would be subject to the paradigm OF the current status quo. it can only be changed by the many impoaing their will, not the few currently in power. voting is an illusion of influence

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1649.

    Nick Clegg disagrees with Brand's conclusion (so do I) but he should listen to the argument, wake up and smell the coffee. If politics and democracy are worth defending, they are worth radical reform.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1648.

    1647.economaster
    "mayfield
    u have nice sentiments but they dont reflect reality. MOST politicians have beencorrupted to some degree, nothing can get changed from within"

    That doesn't really make sense to me. If there are so many people who are interested in being engaged with politics they would outnumber the few who are actually active and could change things.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1647.

    marlais, try bnp or ukip, u n yr friends might prefer something a little more racist.
    mayfield
    u have nice sentiments but they dont reflect reality. MOST politicians have beencorrupted to some degree, nothing can get changed from within

    I wish things would change through voting, but that is a naive view

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1646.

    Before I was rather rudely moderated, I merely pointed out that if Brand wishes for a glorious revolution he should have some ideas of how the world would work afterwards. He only stated what it shouldn't be like. In my opinion this is naive at best, moronic at worst.
    On another point, he should run for MP. If he wants change, he should drop this facade and try and actually make a difference.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1645.

    The major current issues amongst my friends and acquaintances are our continuing membership of the EU and immigration. Given that none of the main parties are going to do anything about them, apart from spout weasel words, it is no wonder that the populace is disenchanted with the whole sorry crew.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1644.

    Remember the two are paid by BBC licenses fees and as such are state employee.
    Why do they not run for election- step one: resign their day job- two get campaign sponsors- 3 get elected- 4 speak you mind!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1643.

    Paxo is absolutely correct. I live in a safe Tory seat, into which Dave parachuted an "A lister" - so I didn't bother to vote. My new MP (Nick Boles) is now too busy helping Tory donors in the construction industry to bother with the peasants. Why should I vote?

 

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