05 February 2014

Why I Wrote This: Gaby Hinsliff On Why Russell Brand Is Wrong And You Should Vote

Today is National Register to Vote Day Grazia readers and it's you they're looking for. Have you ever wondered why nobody in politics seems to listen? It might be because they can't hear you. Younger people, and those who haven't got on the property ladder yet, are significantly less likely than the middle aged and homeowners to register (no registration, no vote). And yes, since you're asking, we do think that might have something to do with the raw deal Generation Rent often gets from politics. Last year, when Russell Brand argued people shouldn't bother voting, I wrote this column for Grazia about why they should. If it hits a nerve today and you'd rather not put your life in someone else's hands, take five minutes to register at at aboutmyvote.co.uk

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There's a certain kind of commitment-phobe you never really see coming, because at first they play it the very opposite of cool.

They sweep you off your feet, all wild promises and grand gestures: they’re incurable romantics, in love with the idea of love. It’s just the reality of it they can’t take, so the minute it stops being all hearts and flowers and starts being about who stacked the dishwasher, they’re off. And as in love, so it sometimes goes in politics too.

Russell Brand went viral with an interview in which he told Jeremy Paxman why he wants a revolution but can’t be doing with actually voting. He loves the big ideas of politics, the high drama: once, he even interrupted a shopping trip with his stylist to join in a passing riot, because he loves a bit of chaos. But the boring bit where you sigh and settle for one of the less than perfect choices on the ballot paper? Not so much. Brand is a classic political commitment-phobe, hooked on the romantic idea of a world where nobody wrecks the planet and there’s no yawning gap between rich and poor, but running shy of the drudgery and messy compromises involved in actually getting there. It's not his fault he can't commit, you understand: it's just that the perfect political movement of his dreams never came along. And judging by the way that interview has racked up hits, he’s hardly alone.

Brand’s right that Westminster isn’t the only way to change the world. People can and do make things happen outside the system, from EverydaySexism’s Laura Bates putting sexual harassment on the national agenda to Jamie Oliver campaigning on school dinners. But they tend to end up working with politicians in the end, because how else are you supposed to get the law changed, or taxpayers’ money spent? There are a million ways to close the gap between rich and poor, if that's what Brand wants - tax multimillionaire comedians more, whack up the minimum wage, cap salaries, or bump up benefits – but the boring truth is it takes a government to do them and voters to support them. There are no sexy shortcuts.

And yes, as an individual voter, you don’t always get what you asked for. But then democracy’s not like ordering pizza. Or rather, it's like ordering a pizza to share with 30 million other people who all like different toppings. Nobody gets exactly what they wanted, but most get something vaguely like it - unless, of course, they never said what they wanted, in which case they can't complain when it arrives covered in anchovies.

So stay home in 2015 by all means, if you’re happy to live with other people's stupid choices. But if you’d rather make your own, then vote. Don’t waste your life, and a freedom some would kill for, holding out for The One that doesn’t exist.


by Gaby Hinsliff – Grazia's political editor at large


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