Russell Brand: right about the problem, wrong about the solution
Russell Brand is right to highlight the problem of political disengagement but wrong to suggest that not voting is the answer, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has claimed.
Responding to the ongoing debate sparked by Brand’s article in the New Statesman and interview on Newsnight, the ERS has pointed to a raft of positive measures which both politicians and people could be taking in order to close the gap between people and politics.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the ERS, said:
“Russell Brand is absolutely right to point out that people are increasingly disillusioned with politics, and that something has to be done. But he is wrong to think that encouraging people not to vote is any kind of answer. We should not forget how precious democracy is, and calling for mass non-participation is a dangerous, irresponsible and ultimately futile way of tackling disengagement.
“Instead of advocating essentially negative measures like Mr Brand’s call not to vote and others’ requests for having a ‘none of the above’ option on the ballot, we believe there are positive and practical things which we could be doing.
“We need to update our political system to bring it in line with the 21st century. The House of Lords should be elected so that the second chamber is a reflection of voters’ and not party leaders’ choices. And we should have a fairer voting system at the local level, so that people are less likely to feel their votes are wasted.
“Political parties need to wake up to the fact that people no longer have faith in them. They should be finding ways to open up to more people, and they should reach a deal on party funding so we can get the big money out of politics once and for all.
“Finally, we need to encourage people to recognise how – despite its faults – our representative democracy has a value beyond price. We need to foster cultural change, starting young with civic education and a landmark first vote at 16. This would make voting a lifetime habit, creating a generation more willing to meet politics halfway and less likely to project unreasonable demands on a system which is theirs to shape.
We should be proud to participate in our democracy. Perhaps it is time to renew our faith in it by refreshing both the way we do politics and the way we think about it.”