January 26, 2015 by James Crossley
Barrow-in-Furness, from where this blog partly hails, has been at the heart of the Russell Brand phenomenon in recent weeks. Less than a month after an investigation into Brand’s politically radical construction of the Bible and religion was carried out, the local MP John Woodcock has laid down a challenge to Brand…to debate Trident submarines. As you will all know, Trident submarines are built in Barrow and they are among the most Britain’s most unconventional places in which one can sleep instead of work.
At the time of writing, the local paper, the Evening Mail, has this story as its headline (at least in the online edition). And if we wished to smuggle ‘religion’ further into this story, we need look no further than the apocalyptic-sounding headline which makes Woodcock sound like he has the odds stacked heavily in his favour: BARROW MP CHALLENGES ‘ECCENTRIC’ RUSSELL TO TRIDENT SHOWDOWN. Obviously, this is not really a battle which uses nuclear submarines. Instead, the Evening Mail informs us, ‘BARROW and Furness MP John Woodcock has challenged “eccentric comedian” and Hollywood film star Russell Brand to come to the town and have a face-to-face showdown over Trident and meet some of the BAE Systems workforce.’
On Brand’s side, the Evening Mail reports the following:
The star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, St Trinian’s, Get Him to the Greek and Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 added: “BAE are one of the firms who do well out of Trident and missile development and the arms industry. I wonder why that is? Well, a lot of people who worked for the military or in government now work for BAE. Someone called Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles. He is so posh, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, that none of the words in his name are real words. It’s just some sounds. Look at that – BAE earned £43m from selling arms to Saudi Arabia and Sherard Cowper-Coles became BAE’s international business director with particular focus on the Middle East. There’s a relationship there. Old Portillo, we remember him. He was a former secretary of defence who is a non-executive director at BAE. John Lee, former defence secretary, became group consultant for G4S, one of the Ministry of Defence’s partners in Iraq.”
The video is available here (and, for those interested in Brand’s construction of religion and the Bible, note the headwear):
On Woodcock’s side, the Evening Mail reports the following:
In a response video, Mr Woodcock said: “Russell, you have said that we should abandon the submarine boat-building programme that carries nuclear weapons because some people in BAE make a lot of money. Well, this is a substantial investment. The overwhelming majority of this goes on employing many thousands of the most highly skilled engineers and manufacturers in my constituency and right across the United Kingdom. But, that isn’t the reason why that we should go ahead with replacing the submarines. Actually, why we should do this is we can’t possibly know – while other countries retain nuclear weapons as they do – we cannot possibly know what the threats that are going to be facing the UK in 20, 30 or 40 years time. So, if that happens and if we end up in a situation, a nightmare scenario, where we are experiencing nuclear blackmail, I want us to have more to be able to defend this country than a sharp-witted, eccentric comedian.
“But, look, let’s not do this over YouTube, come to Barrow and meet some of this workforce – let’s do this thing properly.”
Here is the video from Woodcock:
There is plenty that could be said on this issue but what was one of the interesting things for me was that this debate continues the (overwhelmingly) dominant receptions of Brand in parliamentary and mainstream media circles in terms of his understanding of religion and the Bible. But more on this to come soon…