UK Politics

David Blunkett attacks 'cynicism' of Russell Brand and Will Self

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Media captionPoliticians are "not as honest as we should be about where power really lies", Mr Blunkett conceded

Comedian Russell Brand is undermining democracy by encouraging young people not to vote, David Blunkett has said.

Mr Brand has said there is no point in voting because politicians are corrupt and untrustworthy.

Mr Blunkett said his views were a "disgrace" and he attacked writer Will Self for expressing similar opinions.

Mr Self - who has said people that join political parties are "donkeys" - said young people had good reasons not to vote and it was not just apathy.

Russell Brand sparked controversy last year when he said he did not vote and never would.

He told the BBC's Newsnight: 'I'm angry, because for me it's real. This is what I come from... there is going to be a revolution.

"Don't bother voting. Stop voting stop pretending, wake up, be in reality now. Why vote? We know it's not going to make any difference."

Mr Blunkett - who was education secretary and home secretary under Tony Blair - attacked the comic for spreading cynicism, telling the BBC's Daily Politics: "There's a corrosive influence taking place and Russell Brand is part of that."

"I'm fully in favour of people being highly sceptical - that's part of a healthy democracy - but not cynical. And what we've moved to, too often, is just straight abuse, so they're not actually very funny either which is, in my view, quite a problem."

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Media captionThe UK's political system has created a "disenfranchised, disillusioned underclass", Russell Brand argued on Newsnight in October

The Sheffield Brightside MP set out his views on boosting political engagement in a speech to think tank the Centre for Social Justice.

He said "older people, wealthier people, better educated people, engaged people" are most likely to turn out on polling day".

"And who vote the least? Young people, poor people, badly educated people," the Labour MP continued.

"And who do politicians of all parties fear alienating the most? Who do they ignore the most? Who, when it comes down to further austerity, are in the firing line?

"And paradoxically the more those who are not engaged are ignored, targeted under the austerity programme and dismissed, the more alienated and disillusioned they become. Politicians, they say, 'don't give a damn about us'."

Image caption In 2011, Mr Self said most political activists were like donkeys led by donkeys

Katie Ghose, the chief executive of campaign group the Electoral Reform Society, said Mr Blunkett had been "absolutely right" to raise the disengagement of young people, since "fewer than one in eight people under the age of 25 intend to vote". She called for more lessons about politics in schools and lowering the voting age to 16.

But Will Self hit back at Mr Blunkett's criticisms in a debate with the MP on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said: "There are actual systemic reasons why young people feel disengaged with politics; I don't think it's some kind of apathetic mood music being laid down by writers or journalists such as myself.

"It's a bit rich coming from Mr Blunkett, who resigned not once but twice from ministerial positions because of various forms of malfeasance, and who takes fat cheques from the likes of News International and Associated Newspapers, to complain against people such as myself bringing politicians into disrepute, and politics by extension.

"I think they do it perfectly well themselves."

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