Thursday, 30 April 2015


 Or: "Why this

made me finally join the Labour Party."

I didn't see this coming a month ago.

I don't mean the interview, although no I didn't see that coming either; for the last five years Labour's appeared infuriatingly reluctant to engage with any grassroots movement at all, let alone stick up for one, a disengagement that's done far more to see off the old two-party system than anything the Lib Dems managed. Now Plan A enters its endgame Ed Miliband's campaigning for a majority like he's the only game in town, but surely he's left it too late. Probably. Almost definitely. It's maybe too late, but not I think too little, because the more Miliband campaigns for a majority, the more I actually believe that he actually believes he can pull it off, and I find that I find that exciting.

And to find that exciting I must at some point have stopped believing he was an eye-watering liability, so when did that happen? Certainly not during the Scottish referendum, nor his last conference speech, nor even the 2012 conference speech when he gabbled on about Disraeli instead of food and jobs and homes. It was recently, maybe as recently as the publishing of the Tory Manifesto: the shoddy maths was an open goal, but Miliband's been presented with open goals before and still managed to kick himself in the face... Suddenly I have a very strong mental picture of - THAT'S who he reminds me of:

Back to two weeks ago though. Here, finally, was the most cogent and coherent (those words don't mean the same thing do they?) argument against the Tories being made - not in an online petition or in an article circulated around twitter - but by the Labour leader himself. Maybe he wouldn't be useless in office, I suddenly thought. Maybe he's just useless in opposition.

The following day "The Making of Ed Miliband" appeared in the Guardian, an account of his period in opposition that, while not exactly glowing, at least showed that not nothing had been going on in all those years and that the Labour leader had, if not a plan, at least an aim. Put more simply than I've heard him put it himself, that aim was: "How to be radical and still win British elections." It was something Ken Livingstone had also hinted at years earlier... "I like Ed because he's a socialist". It's a very interesting read, and at the end of it I knew I would be voting Labour.

Then the following day this happened:

It was extraordinary: by refusing to appear, Cameron had let the entire debate turn Ed into a statesman. But it was also a cunning plan: leaving Miliband on his own to court coalition with anti-austerity nationalists allowed Cameron to paint Labour as nation-wreckers - I adore how cunning Cameron is by the way, he's the only one playing anything like three-dimensional chess - and we can see this was the plan, by the way, because that's exactly the picture the Tory machine has gone on to paint. Except Miliband didn't court that coalition. He didn't fall into the trap. Indeed his attacks on Sturgeon drew quite a bit of fire and eye-rolling tuttage. I was among the tutters, which again begs the question: Why do I now find the idea of a Labour majority exciting? I'm against austerity - today it was revealed there are just 48 affordable house in London, and yet we're still told the money isn't there. So I'm against austerity and look! Here's a fierce anti-austerity coalition of minority parties! I'm also historically a big fan of minority parties. Except two of these parties are nationalist, and I'm not a happy nationalist. And the third is - well, differently austere. Green. I mean, isn't being green all about austerity? Oh yes, then this happened:

Five years ago I held my nose and voted Labour because I didn't want to contribute to any chance of exactly what then happened happening. But it happened, and this blog fell silent for a while. It's worth me remembering how genuinely threatened I felt. How much I hated those in office and how much I wanted to write about how much I hated them, and I how I didn't, and how people I knew ended up pilloried and in some cases jailed and kept awake by the police simply for being in the same building as protests criminalised by the last Labour Government, a government which had created something like a police state just in time to hand it over to the Tories, a government that ended free higher education, that dismissed the housing crisis as the fantasy of ignorant racists, and that fucked about with some wars.

Do you know what the last Labour Government didn't do though? It didn't single-handedly bring about a world-wide recession. Do you know what it did do? Saved the economy by bailing out the banks. Do you know what happens if you bail out banks? You run low on money. All this though was clearly news to Cameron and Osborne, who had no idea the country would be low on money and therefore had to hastily jettison their manifesto in favour of a programme of austerity measures that have since hurt a lot of people I think it's the job of a civilized democracy to try and see don't get hurt. In fairness to them both though, they did all this without complaining. But this is old news. Osborne's told us not to get complacent about the recovery, so I'm assuming everything's only ostensibly all completely fine now.

I've never seen Ed Balls so happy as when Labour lost. I'm not sure I've been able to forgive him for that.


Yes! Peter Oborne! Three days before he sadly but sensationally resigned from the Telegraph because it refused to publish anything bad about HSBC Oborne wrote "if Ed Miliband does become prime minister, he will have done so without owing anything to anybody." He wrote it in the Spectator - so maybe I should be a little more guarded about referring to a Tory Machine - and the piece resurfaced around the time of the Opposition debates, which is when I read it. It's that rare thing: a blistering commendation. "It is extremely unusual for opposition leaders to win votes in the House of Commons and Ed Miliband has made a habit of doing so." Oborne then goes on to give chapter and verse. When I read that I realised I could vote for Labour without holding my nose. There was achievement there. There was survival. There was Olympic spirit. Remember? Opening ceremony? Tim Berners-Lee? "This is for everyone"? I've always said whoever could make that motto their own would win a majority. Miliband hasn't attempted to. I do have a problem with that. He's not very good with words.

But put him next to Russell Brand...

Five years ago I also wrote "It's like Battlestar Galactica, isn't it. Is it? It's like Mad Men. What's the word I'm looking for? It's drama." This too is drama. This is brilliant. It's brilliant because it's so obvious. Disaffected voters have a spokesman, that spokesman's an international celebrity with nearly ten million twitter followers, so speak to him. It's never been easier. And here Miliband is, jacket on, tie done up to eleven and utterly himself because ultimately, whatever you think of Russell Brand, he will let you speak. There's so much sniffiness in the News about simply defining our terms, but here that is finally allowed to happen. I have friends who have nightmares consisting solely of  Brand saying the word "paradigm." But the word does mean something.

"I have rolled up my sleeves, because I have rolled up my sleeves. What's Ed Miliband doing? Talking to someone who thinks you shouldn't vote? What an idiot. Has he rolled up his sleeves? I have."

 I remember Gordon Brown delivering tub-thumping speeches in front of applauding crowds five years ago. I remember thinking: without them, he's nothing. He needs the machine. He can't brook any opposition. Miliband on the other hand has had to. I think this "Trews" is the best public speaking Miliband's done, and it needed Russell Brand for it to happen, which is also what makes it such great drama. This is Obama talking to Bill O'Reilly. You could also maybe say it is a cry for help, but it's a cry a lot of people I know have been waiting to hear. So shrug, Ed, look like a goon, it doesn't matter, I get it: Politics is hard. And it starts with the people. I agree. It's us against the machines - Not the machines by which things eventually get done, but the machines in the shadows, the non-dom free-sheet proprietors and pollsters, the bullshit-spinning giant spiders whose clumps of web we're told are simply the terrain. A coalition is inevitable, we're told. Nothing's inevitable.

That's why I find the idea of a Labour majority exciting. And that's why I joined the Labour Party today.

Fun two weeks.


  1. It's like Caprica, isn't it? Is it? It's like Cucumber. It's drama. Good on you, Russell.

  2. Regarding whether it's too late if not too little, Dan Mersh makes this excellent point on twitter: "If you encourage people not to register to vote it's probably better that you don't change your mind after it's too late to register to vote."