The general election doesn’t matter – but only if you’re Russell Brand

Or, any other rich, white guy with a trust fund or 6 figure income or a banker or a footballer.

Russell Brand’s dismissive attitude to voting is well-documented. He’s also right in terms of the general election not having any real long-lasting, major changes to the lives of people living in the UK; or, those affected by policies enacted by the UK government and UK corporations overseas. No political party is advocating a radical shift in politics to end poverty.

Brand is completely wrong about the general election being irrelevant. He is a dilettante with a film to promote.

And, it is unbelievably obvious that Brand doesn’t understand the reality of poverty.

The general election is only irrelevant to Brand because he doesn’t depend on housing benefit to pay rent in a sub-standard council property full of mould; nor does he depend on child benefit to feed his kids. Brand isn’t dependent on public transport or under-funded schools. He’s never had to make the choice between feeding his children or paying the rent.

Brand doesn’t have to jump through several thousand hoops to get a pitiful disability living allowance in order to care for a child or the equally asinine hoops to get a personal independence payment (PIP) – some of which have taken more than a year to process. This assumes that people who are disabled will eventually get the financial support they require – many new claims have been denied forcing people into lengthy appeals processes, even when dying.

Brand isn’t forced into remaining in an abusive relationship because devastating cuts to women’s services mean that refuges are closing. Specialist services for BME women are experiencing even more drastic funding cuts. Even if women manage to leave the relationship safely (and the highest risk of extreme and fatal violence is after the relationship ends), the benefits system takes months to process claims pushing women further into poverty. Cuts to legal aid give women little access to justice and the “families need fathers” rhetoric ensures that violent men can use the family courts to continue abusing their former partners and children.

Brand is completely oblivious to the fact that many of the children living in poverty in the UK live with single mothers. They live in poverty because their fathers refuse to financially support them – preferring instead to waste thousands on legal fees avoiding payment rather than ensure their child has adequate clothing and food. Others hide their income and spend it on holidays or equally pointless shit whilst their children’s mothers go without food to buy their child a new pair of shoes.

There are no political parties currently committed to holding fathers financially responsible for their children – and it is almost always fathers who refuse to support their children – nor are any parties will to talk about this as a form of child abuse.

No party is fully committed to saving the NHS and I’ve yet to read a party manifesto which recognises the need for a non-judgmental benefits system that actually supports people instead of punishing them. Good quality social housing is in short supply – outdated heating systems forcing people into fuel poverty aren’t exactly an anomaly. The relationship between poor child health due to substandard housing and the destruction of the NHS is frequently ignored.

Rhetoric around migration remains deeply racist and lacks any concrete understanding of consequences of unfettered capitalism and ongoing colonialism.

Running about the high street in an anonymous mask isn’t going to make this reality understood.

A radical reform of capitalism is necessary, but a rich, white dude doesn’t live with the daily micro-aggressions and consequences of anti-migration, a dismantled welfare state, inadequate housing and a disappearing health care system. It is people living or caring for family members with disabilities, single mothers, pensioners, low-income families and migrants who do: they are being pushed further and further into poverty.

Best of the worst political parties is our only option right now. It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s better than the worst of the worst. Voting for the Conservatives and UKIP will result in more people being forced into poverty. It will be followed by the entirely preventable deaths of people.

The SNP can curb Labour’s more asinine policies on migration, benefits, the NHS and Trident, and Labour can curb the SNP’s dependence on some of their more ‘colourful’ members who joined for nationalist reasons and who aren’t fully committed to the newer SNP policies, as well as challenging Scotland’s medieval land-owning regulations.

We need braver politicians and political parties who actually care about people living. We won’t get them by not bothering to vote.

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