If you believe Russell Brand, all MPs have horns and smell of brimstone

17 Dec 2014 @ 9.02 pm
| Opinion

But Brand and Nigel Farage make one of our MPs look as exciting as low fat yoghurt, says Miles Salter

Panto has arrived on BBC Question Time, chirped The Telegraph, in the run-up to Russell Brand and Nigel Farage’s appearance on Question Time this week. If the BBC were on the hunt for headlines, they certainly gained a lot of attention for this programme.

I’m normally sloping off to bed when the programme comes on at 10.30pm, but stayed up to watch. In the event, it wasn’t quite the psychological high noon that it might have been, but the contentious issues (including a long discussion about why so many people are disaffected by politicians) did make it lively.

Brand, who is steadily reinventing himself as a spokesperson for the downtrodden, did land a punch on Farage, calling the UKIP leader “poundshop Enoch Powel”. The line may have been carefully rehearsed, but it was pretty effective nonetheless and drew a round of applause.

Farage seemed fairly relaxed however, and several studio members were clearly on his side. His consistent chirping about immigration has caught the attention of many people, and UKIP, love them or hate them, are on the up.

Farage’s stance is dubious to say the least, mining a latent seam of racism in the UK. But he is becoming more adept at playing the media game, sounding assured and relaxed.

He looks like a man who’s quietly confident. And the fact that many people are concerned about immigration plays neatly into his vision of the world.

Brand and Farage both have their weaknesses, but they do at least inject passion and colour into a political landscape

Russell Brand wanted to get away from the immigration debate and remind people of the real enemy: politicians and bankers. Challenged to stand for election, he swatted the suggestion away: “I’m afraid I’d become like them,” he said.

In truth, Brand’s anarchic comments may well carry more clout if he maintains a position from the sidelines, rather than from the House of Commons.

But he can sound a like a broken record: Brand implies that all MPs and financial managers wear horns and smell of fire and brimstone.

It was up to Times journalist Camilla Cavendish to bring some sense: many politicians, she pointed out, are decent people and work hard to represent their constituencies and real issues, and the City has a lot of talent that does the UK a power of good.

What struck me about this session was how the BBC was keen to bring colourful characters (Brand and Farage) into the debate. Many politicians, however good intentioned, seem rather drab and lifeless – one of our York MPs makes low fat yogurt seem exciting.

Spitting Image, the Eighties satirical show, enjoyed several years of humour when two political personalities – Thatcher and Kinnock – were at centre stage.

Brand and Farage both have their weaknesses, but they do at least inject passion and colour into a political landscape that badly needs men and women who believe in what they stand for, and are prepared to take a stand.