Russell Brand wants people to vote for Ed Miliband's Labour Party in the British general election. He's made a crucial mistake.

COMEDIAN AND ACTIVIST Russell Brand has urged people to vote in this week's British general election. It is a major political about face by the man who says he has never voted and has consistently attacked representative democracy as a sham that only serves to perpetuate the rule of the one percent.

While Brand's call for a Labour vote has attracted  praise from longtime Labour supporters like musician Billy Bragg and Labour's shadow minister for work and pensions Rachel 'Labour does not represent beneficiaries' Reeves, it has also been condemned by people who have accused Brand of making misleading claims about Labour. 

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition have pointed out that a vote for Labour will not mean an end to austerity, merely its continuance.

Left Unity, who are standing ten candidates, have also criticised Brand. It says a vote for Labour is not a vote for real change but for the status quo.

Last week Labour leader Ed Miliband, looking for votes, paid a visit to Russell Brand and Brand has now uploaded new footage to his YouTube channel The Trews.

 In the video - "Emergency: VOTE To Start Revolution" - Brand says that Miliband's party is worth a shot.

Brand's premise that you should vote Labour to begin a process radical change is fundamentally flawed and Brand seems none too convinced himself, conceding that he can't be sure what the reality of a Labour government would mean.

But there's no reason to give Labour the benefit of the doubt. A quick way to find out that nothing much will change is to scan through the Labour Party's market-friendly policies. While Brand might say that he has 'loads of problems' with Labour he is still wiling to accept Ed Milband's assurance that a Labour government would listen to the community. He told Miliband:

"I think it's cool what you say. That the election's the beginning, not the end, and that it's not about euphoria, it's about stability and a dialogue with the British people, where they're heard over the interests of the powerful. Then we have something worth voting for."

There's nothing to suggest that any of this is true, but the real motivation behind Band's new found enthusiasm for Labour is the prospect of another five years of Conservative-led government. Brand might have doubts about Labour but Ed Miliband is still  preferable to David Cameron.

So we have arrived back at the old and discredited 'lesser evil' argument and one which we are all too familiar with in New Zealand. It is trotted out by Labour supporters at every election to justify Labour's continued support for big business and neoliberalism.

The problem for Brand is that Labour is unlikely to be much better than the Conservatives. This, after all, is the same Labour Party that voted for the Conservative-led government's welfare cap. According to Save the Children, the welfare cap will push a further 400,000 children into poverty within four years. Labour has now has ditched its plan to eliminate child poverty by 2020.

A couple of weeks or so ago Laurie Penny, writing in the New Statesman, told her readers- somewhat half-heartedly - that they should vote. Her reasoning, which she freely admitted, 'would not get the blood pumping" came down to this:

"The question is whether we want the next five years to be disastrous or merely depressing. The choice is between different shades of disillusion...."

Is this, in the end, all that Brand is offering? Is this, after the freewheeling bravado of the Paxman interview, what he has been reduced to - supporting a party that allies itself to the bankers and financiers of the City of London rather than working class communities in cities like Manchester or Newcastle. Is the choice only ever going to be between disastrous and merely depressing?

Russell Brand might think a Labour government might offer more 'wiggle room' for the left but it is more likely to lead to political inertia and deepening disillusionment. The left generally can only be damaged by this.

When Britain is looking for what Raymond Williams described as 'new definitions and new directions' simply advocating a definition and a direction that has comprehensively failed is simply not good enough.


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