It’s not really our job to comment on wider issues outside the rental sector, however, as the New Era Estate tenants and Mr Brand have scored what can only be described as an incredible victory today – I hope you will forgive my indulgence, there is a good reason…
I had a really odd thing happen to me this week. To be fair a lot of odd things happen to me most weeks but this one really did slip a gear out of my moral gearbox.
I simply posted a comment onto my Facebook page about Russell Brand:
I have the upmost respect for Russell Brand. While most dismiss him as a prat, I’d say he really gets his hands deep into the problems where career politicians fear to tread. BBC3, iPlayer, Russell Brand: End the Drugs War. Don’t dismiss things before you see them first hand.
This post was mostly inspired after watching aforementioned documentary on BBC3 yet also because of his work on the behalf of the New Era Estate tenants which I personally thought was simply Mr Brand being an extremely good egg. After all the “millionaire attention seeking actor” didn’t really have to help in any way at all did he.
What happened next to my Zuckerberg crafted wall really did take me by surprise and knock me somewhat sideways.
Immediately comments from people whom I respect and care about popped up, liberally scattered with words like “moron” and “wanker”. The language of Brand vitriol was colourfully decorating my Facebook haven at an alarming rate. In spite of all this I tried a few futile attempts to defend my point of view which only seemed to make things worse! It seemed my small Facebook village had decided to pull up the drawbridge and reach straight for the torches and pitchforks and to hell with the concept of a fair trial.
This all happened in the wake of – “lunchgate” – an open letter from Jo (an RBS “freelancer”) who profusely objected about missing his hot lunch due to a protest about banking in which Mr Brand and a film crew where involved.
My first reaction to this “humorous” open letter was that it seemed quite a sad reflection upon our democracy when poor Jo’s lunch is deemed more important than people attempting to protest about a legitimate issue, one which very few people actually disagree with.
Despite all this Jo’s letter went viral extremely quickly and seemed to gain unbelievably vitriolic support with the general online population as far as my increasingly bemused eyes could see.
Even a close member of my family (who’s of very sound mind and balanced political opinion) chose to join in and to give old @rustyrockets a damn good kicking whilst he was virtually bleeding on the floor of my poor Facebook wall.
We live in strange times indeed. Celebrities who dabble in politics are, unsurprisingly, in a popularity contest.
Myleene Klass – somehow a hero for taking Ed Milliband to task over the mansion tax. She apparently won broad support from a general public who, let’s face it, will never know the privilege of owning property of a qualifying value.
Hot upon her fashionable heels was Sol Campbell. Sol was proclaiming that he’d have to work for the tories at the election because “this has to be nipped in the bud”. I’m sure all the season ticket holders agree Sol.
Angelina Jolie – who’s cause is a very noble and worthwhile one, has managed to gather some extremely powerful and influential people around her using the power of celebrity and possibly influenced government policy with it. Yet, when asked about the mansion tax – “I’m quite responsible about money. That could put me off”
In all these cases I didn’t once hear the word “moron” or “wanker” mentioned in regard to any of them. Maybe it’s because everyone just quite likes them more, maybe they’re just more popular and palatable than Mr Brand.
My favourite part of “lunchgate Jo’s” letter which everyone seemed increasingly keen to quote on my (by now) blood soaked Facebook wall was this:
My first question is, what were you hoping to achieve? Did you think a pack of traders might gallop through reception, laughing maniacally as they threw burning banknotes in the air, quaffing champagne, and brutally thrashing the ornamental paupers that they keep on diamante leashes — and you, Russell, would damningly catch them in the act?
The key there is in what @rustyrockets is “hoping to achieve”?
I’d suggest it was change.
Today it would appear his involvement with the New Era Estate has not only achieved much, it’s also achieved change.
Working for this website we became aware of the issues surrounding Westbrooks takeover of the estate relatively early on and we watched on in horror as events quickly unfolded.
Behind the scenes the tenants where getting organised and the fight was being carried out by a small band of admirable people who’s very homes where at stake, yet no-one was truly listening to them.
Did anybody truly care?
Lets face it, once Mr Brand stepped in he gave the tenants access to a huge PR machine which delivered New Eras’ plight right into the middle of your living room and you knew that this situation was wrong and unjust. It made you uncomfortable.
That kind of publicity can only be gifted or bought – I’m pretty confident that had it been paid for the campaign wouldn’t have been as successful, no-one would know about it and Westbrook would have steamrollered on to victory regardless.
The result of all the publicity created is the backing down of Westbrook today who sold to Dolphin Living who are far better placed to offer the tenants more affordable tenancies as christmas present.
So who are the winners in all this? Clearly the tenants of the New Era Estate which is as it should be, and my heartfelt congratulations to them and their families all.
This change didn’t come about because of his character or how popular he is with the greater population. It came about through a lot of hard work from the New Era Tenants coupled with the enormous unwelcome publicity which @rustyrockets put behind them which Westbrook appear not have the stomach for.
As for Jo, well, your lunch may have been cold but when you ask what Russell was trying to achieve – it maybe not much in your banking sector however he has gently aided some unfortunate victims of corporate greed the opportunity to stay in their homes.
Living in a democracy I think that is worthy of the odd cold lunch now and again, don’t you?
Seems being famous is a poisoned chalice…