Comedian Russell Brand has become something of a thorn in the side of British politicians in recent months. Brand’s outspoken attacks on the state of politics has rocked the political establishment. Nigel Farage is the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and is also frightening the political establishment to death. As the Daily Telegraph points out, Brand and Farage at least have this in common.
Farage and his party sit considerably to the right of centre in U.K. politics, whilst Russell Brand sits well to the left. Brand has become a poster boy for the anti-establishment elements in the U.K. and has launched a YouTube channel that frequently attacks the political status quo. The videos Russell posts frequently hit several million views. He shares his views even more widely on Twitter, with his near 9 million followers.
Tonight, Brand appeared on the BBC’s Question Time program, on the same panel as Nigel Farage. Both men are well known for their outspoken views. Brand has been roundly criticized this week after he shared the personal telephone number of a Daily Mail reporter on his Twitter feed after the reporter had questioned Brand’s tax affairs. Brand has been fiercely critical of Nigel Farage’s politics, in particular his stance on immigration issues and his approach to European affairs.
Farage is an elected member of the European Parliament, an institution he abhors. His party’s stated political aim is to withdraw the U.K. from the European Union. As a result of the views of Farage and his party, they are frequently accused of being racist and xenophobic.
The party’s propensity to commit terrible gaffs does little to dispel the impression that many have of the party. Just last week, Farage himself was roundly criticized when he was interviewed about the issue of women breastfeeding their babies in public places. As reported by the London Evening Standard, Farage suggested that as some people could be offended by this, women should go and sit in a corner.
What is certain is that both Russell Brand and Nigel Farage are strong and fluent public speakers. Both have a tendency to speak without thinking and both seem to attract controversy with an extremely natural ease. Both Brand and Nigel Farage are regular contributors to the Question Time program and both have collected more than their fair share of complaints from BBC viewers. Indeed, Brand was sacked from his BBC radio program in 2008 when he and presenter Jonathan Ross phoned actor Andrew Sachs live on air and made obscene comments about Brand’s relationship with Sachs’ granddaughter.
It is, perhaps, safe to say that many anticipated quite a showdown when Brand and Farage met on tonight’s show. In the event, whilst there were some raised tempers from the public in the studio and tempers on the panel were raised at times, presenter David Dimbleby did well to keep the conversations on track without them becoming too personal. In the end, it was all something of a damp squib rather than the anticipated fireworks.