SHOCK as comedian Russell Brand makes complex political issue all about himself


I doubt many people will be surprised that Russell Brand took a complex and important issue and found a way to make it all about him.

Buried among the videos of being abused by his audience, Russell Brand’s speech at Saturday’s anti-austerity protests contained a bizarre quote. During a diatribe about out-of-touch elites, the Forgetting Sarah Marshall star practically boasted:

“I am personally a product of the welfare state, not least because I signed on for eight years while I learned to be a comedian, so I’m somewhat grateful for it.”

Britain is currently in the middle of a long, heated, debate.  We need to figure out what kind of welfare state we want, what kind we can afford and what, at its core, the welfare state is for. Most people of all political stripes agree that we need a safety net to stop people falling off a cliff if they lose their job and to provide them with a sense independence and dignity if they are genuinely unable to work.

However Brand’s comments display a deeply hypocritical attitude towards the welfare state. For all the anti-austerity protesters like to talk about the need for a safety-net, his comment demonstrated an attitude of pure entitlement.

Earlier is his speech Brand talked about how the welfare state educated him, housed him and got his mum cancer treatment that saved her life. I have no problem with the principle behind any of those things. Giving people a good education, keeping them from living on the streets and treating their illnesses are all things the State should be doing. I assume this is why the Conservative government has maintained its pledge to protect the schools and pledged to spend £8 billion more on the NHS, while reforming planning laws and providing funding to tackle a housing crisis that goes back to long before 2010 and is acknowledged across the political spectrum. Of course, there was no mention of these in Brand’s comments.

What the welfare budget and the State as a whole are not for is allowing a person to spend almost a decade pursuing a comedy career funded by taxpayer money intended to help people who really need it get back on their feet. The point of a safety net is that you climb out and get back on the tightrope, not stay there for the best part of a decade until Big Brother’s Big Mouth comes calling. I doubt William Beveridge would have got the joke.

I doubt many people will be surprised that Russell Brand took a complex and important issue and found a way to make it all about him. He did it before the election when he summoned Ed Miliband to be interviewed in his house. He did it after the election when he said he was quitting politics having thought he could influence the outcome of the general election. He did on Saturday when he said he now felt personally responsible for the outcome of that same general election, a surprisingly self-aware acknowledgement of the fact that his involvement only hurts the causes he claims to support.

In saying that subsidising aspiring prank-callers is a perfectly good reason for a £168 billion welfare budget that amounts to almost a quarter of total spending, he has done just that. If he believes this, then his priorities are more skewed than Saturday’s reported attendance figures.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattGass

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