Brendan O’Neill

The biggest loser of the night? Russell Brand

The biggest loser of the night? Russell Brand
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Forget Vince Cable. Forget, if you can, Ed Balls (and I know that’s hard, because what a joyous result that was). Expel from your mind the image of Nick Clegg crying into his cornflakes this morning while texting his old pals in the Euro-oligarchy to see if they will give him a new plush job that involves no contact with pesky plebs. For last night there was an even bigger loser than those guys. Russell Brand. Or ‘Rusty Rockets’, as his politics-packed Twitterfeed has it. Rusty being the operative word, for now we know that the much-hyped ability of slebs like Brand to sway public sentiment is in a serious state of decomposition.

This election has just done to Brand what the last election did to Clegg: exposed that his powers of persuasion over the little people are nothing more than a Guardianista fantasy. In 2010 every liberal was banging on about Cleggmania and saying Nick was the Obama of Britain. (Obama should have sued.) Then the election results came in and revealed that Clegg’s Lib Dems actually lost seats – 57, down from 61 in 2005 (and now, of course, his party is wiped out).

This time round, leftish observers talked up the ‘Brand effect’, the possibility that Rusty’s reversal on not voting and his interview with and endorsement of Miliband might help swing the election. ‘The Tories should be worried’, declared the Guardian. Yeah, not so much. If Brand had any effect – and he didn’t – it was only to damn Labour even more than it was already damned.

The bigging-up of Brand’s intervention in the election was seat-shiftingly embarrassing. ‘He has nearly 10 million Twitter followers… he is listened to by hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Britons… Russell Brand matters’, said Owen Jones, clearly viewing Brand as a kind of priestly figure with a mystical hold over that inscrutable blob (us lot) that politicians can’t connect with. In another piece, Jones said ‘Miliband’s best route to young voters is Russell Brand’, not stopping to think that it might be super-weird that the leader of the alleged party of working people can only speak to the youth via a floppy-haired 40-year-old tabloid filler who hasn’t made a decent gag since 2008.

— Elisa Misu Solaris (@ElisaMisu) April 27, 2015

Elsewhere, commentators hailed Brand as the man who has ‘access to voters politicians can’t reach’. Brand was treated as a celeb conduit, a connector of the political class with the plebs, someone who could actually turn things around. ‘The Tories should be worried.’ People seriously said that.

We can laugh at it all now, and we should – in fact, it’s important that we do. Because it turns out that Brand’s ability to get people lining up behind Miliband was pure bluster. This calls into question, not only the impact of Russell’s silly, increasingly David Icke-like ‘Trews’ videos, but also the whole modern trend for shoving celebs into the political limelight in the desperate hope that they might get the lazy little people interested and engaged in political stuff.

Hilariously, the very same people who accuse the Murdoch papers of brainwashing their readers into voting for the Tories – such undiluted snobbery – believed that a celeb with a webcam and a lively Twitter presence could simply click his fingers and get the hordes voting Labour. But he couldn’t. And it isn’t hard to see why. It’s because people aren’t idiots. They want substance, seriousness, not finger-wagging gags about EVIL TORIES and instructions to ‘save Britain’ by giving the nod to Ed.

Brandmania ultimately spoke to the gaping, chasm-like disconnection of the Labour movement, the liberal elite and the Twitterati from ordinary people. Incapable of speaking directly to the masses, they had to employ a sleb to try to do it on their behalf. Their reliance on Rusty revealed their own lack of any serious message, or any means of communicating it to the people. And now they are dumbfounded by the election results, utterly unable to comprehend why their favoured party did so badly. ‘But we had RUSSELL BRAND on our side!’ It’s amazing – they’re like medieval kings, staring in bemusement at the throng, wondering why it refuses to heed the messages of their long-haired missionary.