Director Michael Winterbottom agrees with Russell Brand’s claim that voting in the General Election won’t bring about “real change” – but is still planning to put a cross on his ballot paper.
Winterbottom worked with Brand on new documentary film The Emperor’s New Clothes, which condemns the widening economic gap between rich and poor following the 2008 financial crisis.
Brand has reinvented himself as a political activist, regularly campaigning, vlogging about political issues on YouTube series The Trews and publishing a political manifesto entitled Revolution. But he has also repeatedly claimed that voting under the current system is a waste of time.
Director Winterbottom agrees, but will still be voting in this year’s General Election.
“I’m a Labour Party supporter and I will vote in the election,” he tells RadioTimes.com. “But even though I am a Labour Party supporter and I will vote in the election, if you look at Westminster, clearly what goes on is a farce. It needs radical reform.
“Clearly the case is that Labour’s policies are better than Tory policies, but still nothing like radical enough. I can completely agree with Russell on the fact that just voting once every five years isn’t enough to change anything anyway.”
The director of 24 Hour Party People and comedy series The Trip also defends Brand, who has been accused of encouraging voter apathy.
“He’s completely active, way more active than I am, and I really admire him for the fact that he’s involved and gets active,” Winterbottom says. “And it’s a really sterile thing to accuse him of being against democracy, it’s bulls**t. He wants proper democracy where you really get involved, and ordinary people control their own lives.”
Brand claimed in a 2013 Newsnight interview that he had never voted and never would. Interviewer Jeremy Paxman later wrote in Radio Times that he “understood” why Brand chose not to vote.
The comedian reiterated his frustration with the voting process in the latest edition of his political vlog The Trews, saying, “We’re going to need people to come together collectively and stop disempowering ourselves voting for things that can’t bring about real change.”
Presenter Richard Bacon has said he is concerned about Brand’s stance, saying “I think saying things like ‘Don’t vote’ are very unhelpful. I don’t agree at all with that. Russell has a young following, and if you do what he says, politicians won’t take any notice of you.”
BBC political editor Nick Robinson also wrote in Radio Times that he had “beef” with Brand: “More than anyone I can remember in recent times he has energised, excited and enthused people about some of the great issues of our time,”he wrote, “yet Brand continues to tell people that all politics and all politicians are corrupt or venal or a waste of time.”
But Winterbottom says Brand’s new film shows that his call to arms is a “positive” one. “There has been a massive transfer of wealth to the richest and most powerful people from ordinary people. A financial crisis that has been changed into a public spending crisis. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
“Things were different 35 years ago and things will be different in the future,” he added. “The only way to make them different is to get actively involved and change things yourself.”
The Emperor’s New Clothes will be in selected UK cinemas on Tuesday 21st April, followed by a streamed live Q&A with Russell Brand, and elsewhere from 24th April.