In this interview with Jeremy Paxman for BBC Newsnight, Russell Brand lit a political fire. Well, he didn’t so much light it as point to it and fan the flames. Borne of growing frustration with a woefully corrupted political and economic framework which serves only a minority of wealthy people and corporations, this fire is now raging. The None of the Above campaign has been gathering support to stand candidates at the next general election, to reject this system outright. Is Russell Brand to become the face of this movement?
None of the Above
This will be familiar to anyone who has watched the film Brewster’s Millions – the Richard Pryor comedy where Pryor’s character unwittingly becomes the figurehead of a political movement by standing in an election as ‘None of the Above’.
The campaign is designed to promote independent candidates who stand against the establishment. They may be women or men; young, old, or in between; of any racial, ethnic background; of any religion or none; they are the bricklayers, teachers, carers, parents, students or office workers that keep our world ticking over day and night. A ‘NOTA’ campaign is designed to give voters a chance to actively rather than passively (by abstaining) reject the status quo at the ballot box.
The reason we would need candidates to perform such as action here is that, unlike India, Greece, Spain, Colombia and Bangladesh (to name but a few) we currently have no means of registering such a vote on UK ballots. We can spoil our ballot, but this is not formally recognised as a political voice. So, in order for UK voters to express that they are a politically engaged person seeking to say NO to all that is on offer, and perhaps even the political system itself – the None of the Above campaign is seeking candidates to stand in the name of None of the Above in their constituencies in 2015.
Where Does Russell Brand Come In?
A petition has been launched on Change.org, calling on us and Russell Brand to back this campaign.
The final statement of the petition speaks to Russell Brand and us all:
“Look, let’s cut to the chase: we all know you’re a busy man, but we also know you care about what you’ve talked about here. No one is asking you to be a political leader, instead we need an image; a Brand if you will (such wordplay, you must be proud).
If we can get 10 000 signatures on this petition, will you agree to serve as the official speaker and media representative for this movement towards the 2015 general election?
Other people can take care of the admin, candidate selection, fundraising (just enough to actually pay to stand in each constituency), all you need to do is continue being you and represent the cause where possible.
So what do you reckon, people? Russell? Can we get something going here? Or are we going to leave this as a nice viral video to look back at and say, “Oh…yes…that was an opportunity there, wasn’t it…bollocks…”?
No more bollocks. No more excuses. Let’s give this bullsh*t democracy the middle finger it deserves.”
A Call to Arms
During his fateful interview with Paxman, Brand successfully gave voice to the millions who have had enough. The indebted students, the jobless young, the working families that cannot meet the rising cost of living, the elderly forced to choose to heat their homes or eat, the public sector workers whose jobs, pay and pensions have been cut, the private sector workers going through the same, the parents terrified at the nightmare future ahead of their children – of all of us who are not represented by our current political, economic and social systems.
Where is the democracy if you get to choose between the least worst option? Where is the democracy when there is no choice to vote for a single individual or party that stands for what you do? Well…?
And democracy is about more than the vote each four or five years. Where is the democracy in our workplaces? Where is the democracy in our schools? Where is the democracy in our health system? Where, in fact, is the democracy in any of the decisions which affect us on a daily basis? There isn’t any. Not only do we not do democracy well, but we barely do it at all. Don’t point at Iran and tell me to feel lucky. I don’t aspire to dictatorship, I aspire to democracy. To do it well and all the time. And so, in our hearts, don’t we all? Aren’t we all, if we really admit it, coming to the realisation that we are living in precarious times – and that all those in positions of power, and the locks on the doors to such power, are not there to serve us?
So, here is an opportunity. Russell Brand has become a megaphone for a national conversation that was already underway, but fervently ignored. The None of the Above campaign is not looking for a leader. Like the Occupy Movement, it seeks to promote leadership in all of us. It is more about fundamentally transforming the way we do democracy, than it is about a red, blue or yellow tie. But what Russell can do, if we get those 10,000 signatures and he accepts the challenge, is turn his expression of our anger into a tangible political result in 2015. He has the platform, if we have the courage. So…what are you waiting for?
IMPORTANT POST BLOG UPDATE: 01/11/2013
Following publication of this post, I received various comment from the extended None of the Above community that an ideological split had occurred. One element of which seeks a conventional NoTA campaign to gain the option on future ballots; the other seeks to stand candidates. Given that I am not a member of NoTA and have no axe to grind either way, I would ask you to read the comments section of this blog to explore this topic further. This includes an alternative petition which allows you to express your support for the conventional NoTA option to be added to UK ballot papers.
You can sign the petition here. Please share it widely, tweet it at campaigners, celebrities, politicians, bloggers, the whole twittersphere. The only difference between ‘an’ opportunity and ‘the’ opportunity is taking it.
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