Why people don’t vote – and Russell Brand the intellectual

If you think it makes no difference why vote? The General Election and a little tale from Bristol

Not long ago comedian Russell Brand was voted fourth on a list of the world’s great thinkers – or something similar. Possibly, God help us, it was a list of “thought-leaders”.

One of his great thoughts is that people should not vote. I should applaud this as though I’ve worked for both Labour and the Tories I have never, ever voted. But I do feel a bit guilty. If you don’t vote you can’t hope to change things, can you?

But why have I never voted? Why are fewer and fewer doing so?

In my case it’s because where I lived there was never a candidate I liked the sound of.  In 2009 the Daily Telegraph ran a piece on honest politicians. It was quite short. Almost all politicians seem utter shits – little more than adroit liars intent getting power and keeping it.

The current government swore to sort out the economy and among other things dear to my heart get rid of the hordes of useless and costly committees – quangos – staffed by the cronies of whoever is in power.

Today our national debt has shot up but few realise it because politicians deliberately obscure the truth. When they speak of reducing the deficit most of us think that means reducing the national debt. It doesn’t. It just means slowing the speed at which the debt grows.

And what do ALL the parties now promise? To spend more, making the debt greater. Some – the Greens and the SNP – would spend insanely more. Labour, stupidly more. The Tories vow they will make savings that cover the cost – but they lied last time, so why not now?

And the quangos? Many were just renamed, often with their parasitical crews given pay rises.

That’s how politics works. Politicians pile up misery for future generations when they won’t be here. As the neat American phrase goes, they kick the can a bit further down the road.

At a local level, though, things are even simpler – maybe because an even lower percentage of people vote than in national elections. They fuck you about and when you c0mplain they treat you with contempt.

Take Bristol, where I live. We have a mayor called Ferguson. His chief qualification seems to be that he always wears red trousers. This minor act of individuality, however silly,  singles him out as less dreary than the others. His other chief characteristic is simple. He completely ignores what voters want.

New parking proposals have been forward by the council recently. A great many people – probably the majority – object to them, partly because they are really just a new form of tax, partly because they are ill-conceived in some ways, and partly because there are few benefits we can see. I understand over 90% of the council itself voted against them.

In my road many were really interested and concerned. We got involved. We held meetings, canvassed opinion, raised detailed objections, and gave reasons why we objected.

The response from the man in charge – Service Director Peter Mann – was simple. He was insulting.

He sent a one page letter saying he had “considered” the matter, and decided the scheme will go ahead with “some minor modifications” which he did not trouble to specify. This is because it will “achieve elements of the wider transport policy aspirations of the City Council’s overall transport policy”.

Nobody has the faintest idea what that means; and even if we did it is a nonsense. Our aspirations should be considered not those of the Council – which in any case has voted against the scheme.

Not a word, not a smidgeon, not a suggestion, not hint, not a clue did this bureaucratic jackanapes give as to the reasons for his decision.

No doubt this scheme will go ahead. And no doubt even fewer people will vote at the next local elections.  Russell Brand’s may think this a good idea. But is it?

About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.


  1. Pat

    ‘If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.’ – Mark Twain

    1. Rezbi

      Spot on.

      We don’t live in a democracy. We live in a democratic dictatorship. Meaning, we vote in those who will dictate over us.

  2. Kim

    You can make a difference!
    In Nedlands, a local government area in Western Australia, about 2005, the council voted in a tree policy under pressure from some greenies. You were not allowed to cut any tree trunk or branch thicker than two inches in diameter without permission of the council.
    There was uproar from everyone. No trimming of your trees on your property was allowed without getting a council employee to give permission.
    The council elections were coming up in about six months. There was such opposition to this policy that the councillors suddenly realised they were all going to be voted out of office. They had a meeting and reversed the policy. Too late, they were all voted out of office!
    Other councillors in LGAs took notice, Their tree policies suddenly disappeared.
    The only thing they control now is street trees but that attitude also has softened.
    So you can make a difference with voting. Not often though.

  3. Yeh, for a long time I hated Russell Brand on sight, he just has one of those personalities that does that.

    Except that after reading a few of his more serious articles, I’m forced to begrudgingly admit that he’s actually got a good brain. (I know, who knew?)

    He’s no Gore Vidal, and I still don’t like him, but now I will listen to him.

    1. Drayton

      I see the hairy shit sells stuff made by slave labour.

  4. Rezbi

    This morning I got a leaflet through the door from the Labour party.

    The very first bullet on the leaflet? The current government has cut £100m from Blackburn’s budget since 2011. And the result of that? They can’t provide Blackburn with the levels of service they’d like to.


    Just last year they finished building a sports center at a cost of £13m. In the town centre, they have a project – building a (totally unnecessary) new bus station – at a cost of £5m.

    I got a leaflet through the door last week where they said they’ve run out of money, so they can’t install gates in alleyways to stop the chavs burning bins.

    And the roads are littered with pot-holes.

    Also, if Labour win again, Jack Straw goes back into power. Not something I’m for considering his past record.

    The Tories, on the other hand, spend more money on killing people abroad (something Labour are good at, too), than saving lives here. What’s more, they openly support Israel.

    So, you’re right, there’s no one to vote for.

  5. RGBargy

    Don’t vote – your choice. If you don’t vote, don’t complain about what you get.

    1. Rezbi

      And if you do, don’t complain, either. We’ve already seen the Tories break promises almost immediately after the election.

      If you ever believe promises politicians make then you’re deluded.

      I have a simple way of knowing when they’re lying … their lips move.

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