AFP

LONDON

At a bar in the trendy Shoreditch area of east London, comedian Russell Brand is preaching revolution with his blend of jokes and impassioned commentary that has earned him a mass following.

Despite largely being drawn from sections of society traditionally withdrawn from politics, the young audience hangs on Brand’s every word. ‘He’s questioning the narrative,’ said Mike Pheasant, 31, after the show. Best known internationally as pop star Katy Perry’s former husband, Brand is a voice in political life at home, campaigning on issues like housing and public healthcare ahead of a general election in May.

But Brand, who played obnoxious rocker Aldous Snow in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ and ‘Get Him To The Greek’, is not standing for election, has no time for political parties and says there is no point voting. A 2013 BBC interview in which he outlined his position has been viewed over 10 million times.

It transformed the lothario performer into a figurehead for those who do not identify with mainstream politics.

Brand, a former drug user, has appeared before MPs to call for a relaxation of drug laws and became involved in a succesful campaign to prevent US investors from doubling rents at a housing estate close to his swanky east London home. He spreads ‘true news’ to his nine million Twitter followers through daily show ‘The Trews’, promising a post-revolutionary society built on ‘radical wealth redistribution and spiritualism.’

Judging by the hordes of fans lining up for a post-gig hug and the popularity of his rabble-rousing book ‘Revolution,’ the 39-year-old from Grays, a working-class town east of London, has a ready audience. But there are just as many who dismiss Brand as a political Pied Piper, dazzling impressionable youngsters with his charm. Reviewing his book, The Atlantic magazine said Brand had the ‘zeal of the missionary and the charisma of the cult leader’ while the Daily Telegraph’s Robert Colvile suggested the author had ‘not even the faintest fragment of an inkling of how his revolution will come about’.

‘He’s not a serious thinker, he’s in the infotainment business,’ scoffed Paul Staines, editor of influential political blog Guido Fawkes. ‘He’s got 9 million people on Twitter, so has Kim Kardashian! The only thing he is dangerous to is photographers.’ Brand is clearly more comfortable talking about overarching philosophical themes than illustrating post-revolutionary policies, which strain under a mass of contradictions.

He advocates a society without leaders while calling for universal public services delivered by an all-powerful state and proclaims his own narcissism while deriding today’s western societies as self-centred and fame-obsessed. He also preaches against revolutionary violence because ‘tactically it looks bad’ but daydreams of ‘going to Parliament Square and whipping off some noggins’ and using football hooligans as the spearhead of his mutiny. Staines highlighted disparaging remarks made by Perry and former girlfriend Jemima Goldsmith, saying they revealed Brand’s ‘nicey-nicey persona’ was just an act.