I am no great fan of Russell Brand. His brand (no pun intended) of humour doesn't appeal to me. But his appearance on BBC Question Time last night demonstrated one salient lesson. There is everything to be gained by confronting UKIP directly rather then pandering to the fears they stoke up about migration. The Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat strategy of trying to outpace UKIP on this key issue simply tells voters that UKIP have got it right. Russell Brand demonstrated how to challenge UKIP on their own turf. The audience responded. Yes, it was a divided audience but I had the impression of a sense of release that UKIP had finally been challenged and found wanting.
Brand's style cuts through the usual heavily nuanced political debate around a centre ground that is the size of a pin head. One of the reasons why voters are turned off politics is that there are few people out there who now make a bold statement that might represent their views, and there are precious few who will try to lead and persuade. They argue instead about small detail. It runs on the lines of 'yea there is this problem, and yes the Tory party propose the following, but we will do more'. The policies are essentially the same but differ in degree rather than substance. Or so it seems. And if it seems so, then politicians have an up hill battle.
How many time do we hear, as we did last night the arguments over a tiny detail? Under Labour 5% of NHS services were 'contracted out', now we were told by the Tory minister 6% is. So is the real difference between Labour and Tory simply 1%? The answer to that is no, but the debate last night didn't reveal that. The truth is the substance, nature and motive behind that 6% contracted out is substantially different which is why the BMA this week warned about 'creeping privatisation'. But why does it matter? It matters because it shifts funds away from NHS departments and if NHS department budgets fall then the ability of the NHS to provide the services expected will diminish. The need for more contracted services will increase, and this is why the BMA warned it was a 'creeping privatisation'
On the program last night we were told of a considerable number of Tory MPs who will gain from such contracting out. This needs further investigation and exposure. The whole process is ethically compromised.
Nigel Farage's trick of damning every other politician was exposed last night. He looked increasingly like an emperor without clothes. It was not a pretty sight. He expects to go on these programs and have all other politicians pandering to his issues. Last night was different. Brand showed the way. Dare I say it was a new brand of politics - and that pun was intended.