Brand versus Farage – Revolution or Realism?

We have seen the oil price drop to a 5 year low of $60/bbl, something Alex Salmond definitely didn’t predict, and appears to be keeping very silent about. Nevertheless the headlines are focused keenly on the hugely anticipated battle on the BBC’s Question Time between the self-proclaimed messiah of the revolution Russell Brand and the realist leader of UKIP Nigel Farage.

Social Media was rife with predictions of fireworks and expectations that Brand would show Farage what real revolution was. That his inspirational words would cause uprising and people would down tools, take to the streets and rally behind his cause. In reality, we witnessed somebody who highlights the problems, but offers no solutions. Brand insisted on throwing as many attacks at Farage and UKIP as possible, yet when challenged by the audience could offer nothing more than he might become “one of them” if he decided to actually do something about it. Even if you disagree with Farage, at least he has put years of effort into changing politics. head shot

Question after question was posed to the panel, and it was hard to distinguish between Labour and the Conservative party, without the initial introductions it would be perfectly acceptable to zone-out and assume they were one and the same person. Remarkably if you have had time to read Brand’s blog and Farage’s piece in the Independent they actually agreed on this very point.

Asked about population levels and over-crowding Farage answered directly explaining; governments role is to plan for the future and that population levels affect the amount of school places, the ability to see a GP and can put pressure on road networks. Meanwhile, the messiah of the revolution Brand ranted with anecdotes and clichés about bankers and the city elite (something he may have a point on) yet he didn’t offer anything of real substance, dodging the question like a well-polished politician. Maybe he had a point about becoming “one of them”.

Up next; the trump card, the NHS! The face of the Labour panellist (or was it the Conservative panellist?) lit up and in predictable fashion went on to try and defend PFI’s, met with a huge sigh from the audience. Brand eloquently highlighted the issues again, but in repetitive style offered nothing of real substance. To the audience’s shock and awe Farage answered directly explaining that in UKIP we have debate about policies and overwhelmingly we feel that PFI’s have been a huge failure in the NHS and it is time we took control of things ourselves. Free at the point of need and controlled by the people, not carved up and outsourced. Nods of approval and claps from people who looked surprised to be clapping, Farage had demonstrated again the ability to be able to answer the question.

Attempting to keep track Brand quite rightly spoke about how important education was, nevertheless couldn’t match the knowledge Farage once more brought to the table. The question was about increasing the amount of grammar schools. At this point I had completely lost interest in anything that Labour or the Conservatives had to say. Farage enlightened the panel on grammar schools, stating that we need to offer those from disadvantaged backgrounds the ability to increase their social mobility. It is fairly common knowledge that grammar schools are becoming over-run with middle-class children, because those families with a little bit of extra cash can afford to move to an area to send their children to one. This drives up house prices and further forces lower wage families out of that option. UKIP want to give children of all social and economic background the choice and the ability to increase their social mobility. To challenge the richest in top jobs we need to give our best and brightest the tools to succeed; a grammar school in every town would be a very good start.

It wouldn’t be fair to miss out Times columnist Camilla Cavendish, because she was both reasoned and articulate in her approach to each question and always offered a concise summary. Nevertheless the night was about the head-to-head between Brand and Farage. While we may have received one of the best Question Times, there weren’t the speculated fireworks.

Brand could have talked about how we can leverage the 5 year low in the oil price to reduce energy bills and help support the cost of living. Instead he looked like a deer in the headlights of a truck driven by Farage. In this instance the realism of Farage prevailed over Brand’s lukewarm revolution.

Dan Evans
Young Independence Chairman – Bath & North East Somerset