Russell Brand's Revolution - preposterous or inevitable?

Simon Harvey writes personally,



There are moments when things begin to align.

Last night, I joined local business, social and political leaders who are committed to make employment available to local people, in an attempt to preserve the precious diversity of Islington. This is a very good thing. But the challenge of providing the decently-paid jobs that sustain diversity requires is already huge and it's getting bigger.

The day before, I watched (with some horror) the collision of worlds as Jeremy Paxman interviewed Russell Brand. Paxman slouched and looked mildly frightened. Brand leapt about angrily and less articulately than usual. The Newsnight veteran was simply astonished at the idea of a revolution while the comedian/actor insisted on its inevitability. Reactions to the interview have been just as polarised. When this happens, we should pay attention more. Perhaps all revolutions take people by surprise.

And thirdly, I've had the chance to read in detail the Distant Neighbours report from the New Economics Foundation, which starkly reveals the changing face of poverty in Islington. (I recommend anyone to spend twenty minutes understanding the complicated table and chart on page 19. When you get it, you'll gasp.)

All of these point to a gathering recognition that unless something rather radical occurs, we may well be heading towards a tipping point of some kind. With a painfully slow economic recovery, the unaffordability of everything that the under 30s are experiencing is becoming less of a tough period to get through and more of a bleak life-limiting future.

It's in the locality that these general themes become apparent. Islington (particularly the thumping heart of it in which we're set) sometimes gives the impression of a continual party. It's a party to which not everyone gets an invitation. For now, community relations are very good indeed. History teaches us, though, that it's extremely difficult to contain continued economic disparity without conflict or even oppressive violence. In a hyper-connected world, it's probably impossible.

The task that's becoming urgent is to find ways in which the common good is experienced as a genuine reality. I sense in Islington, at least the agreement that we should. As a nation, if we can't actually do this soon, there's every danger that 2014 or 2015 will bring the kind of nihilistic uprising that Brand prophecies. In other parts of the world, the anger of the excluded has been sufficient to bring them onto the streets to insist for change, before there's agreement on what the change could be. If it happens here, Russell Brand, rather than any conventional politician, might just become its spokesperson.