Will Russell Brand “come out” for Ed Miliband? I’m reminded of Richard Burton’s comment in his published diaries on hearing that Sinatra had come out for Reagan during the latter’s bid to become governor of California in 1970. Burton said it was “like Laurel coming out for Hardy”. Burton thought Reagan was a dangerous guy. Well, as it turned out, the old cowboy’s instinct did us some good in foreign policy, albeit perhaps by serendipity, when he became president 10 years later.
If Sinatra coming out for Reagan was like Laurel coming out for Hardy, then how should we describe the possibility of Brand coming out for Miliband? I’m reminded of a moronic father and son played by Dick Emery and Roy Kinnear on Emery’s comedy show in the 1970s. The father was a simpleton but marginally less stupid than his son. Except, in the case of Brand and Miliband, I don’t think I’d like to say who is smarter.
Such questions imply that Brand’s endorsement carries weight with his followers and will be sufficient to tilt the election towards Labour. Actually, if there is justice, it should sink Miliband’s campaign. Brand has not, as the trendy set would have it, been engaging with young people at all. He is, rather, opting out. “Get involved but don’t vote!” Makes sense, dunnit? And is Brand really anti-establishment? I bet he’s close to the Hollywood establishment. It’s no surprise that he sympathised with Robert Downey Jr for walking out in an interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Rich and famous people – especially ex-junkies – always side with the like. I bet Brand would step over his working-class supporters on his way to the limo to take him to Heathrow and then to LAX. They’re just expendable cannon fodder in his bid to make a name for himself.
Why this obsession with young voters anyway? We know why Miliband wants to extend the vote to 16-year-olds. Naturally, they are his constituency. Young people have no stake in society and nothing to conserve – they are dispossessed and angry and want the Garden of Eden and, in a way, that is all part of excusable youthful idealism. Most learn to compromise and then change their mind. I bet the Marxists selling copies of the Socialist Workers paper that I saw at Essex University 25 years ago are no longer on the far Left. They may still vote Labour but they will have tempered their views. And if Brand endorses Miliband, then that is exactly the first stage of that very movement.
In 20 years time, I’m sure that Brand will joined the ranks of John Osborne, Kenneth Williams, Michael Savage, Jon Voight, David Mamet, Kingsley Amis and, yes, even Bono, all of whom either regretted their youthful antics or did a volte-face. It’s called “learning”. That’s why I don’t hear the views of a 20-year-old and a 50-year-old with the same deference. How can I? Instead of this much vaunted phrase “getting young people engaged in politics”, which all too often just means hurling a bottle at a policeman on a demo, perhaps they should be encouraged to listen to the pronouncements of their more articulate elders? And I don’t mean people like Miliband – or even Cameron.
As for Miliband, it appears that he hasn’t learned much. If people don’t want you, they don’t want you. No slick, highly personalised election broadcasts change that. In 1987, Neil Kinnock tried the same with a Hugh Hudson-produced vehicle of self-adulation that went down well with the faithful but didn’t convert anyone. I suspect the same will have happened with Miliband.