The media is about to lose the plot. Why? Russell Brand has entered the fray. He has put a bat up the nightdress of the media. Consequently, Russell now walks in the footsteps of giants such as John Prescott's left fist, Mrs 'Bigot' and John Major's wooden soapbox. He is that historic late entrant; the one who begins an unstoppable cycle of ever-increasing media hysteria.
A politician friend of mine said many months ago that victory (or in this day and age: 'largest party') would not be secured by manifestos or great campaigning but, as Harold MacMillan put it: 'Events, dear boy, events'. Of course he was right, because it always is - we just forget in the intervening years. And if any general election needed a few 'events' then it's this one. Up to now it's been the most boring, over-processed, over-controlled general election run-up in history. But then we have some of the most boring, over-processed, over-controlled politicians in history, so we shouldn't be that surprised.
The campaign highlights so far have been few: the 'One Nation Labour Colour' (pink) bus, Ed's two-kitchen nightmare, the discovery that Nicola Sturgeon is not an extra from Braveheart, Farage doesn't like foreign people - especially if they are HIV positive, David Cameron needs three autocues for a 10-minute speech, and most significantly, Russell Brand has the temerity to interview Ed Miliband and broadcast it to, potentially, three times as many people as read The Sun.
And herein lies the problem for the UK media. We don't get our news from the mainstream press any more. We get it from places like Twitter and YouTube, Buzzfeed and Mashable. It is now so bad that the traditional media gets most of their news and reaction from these places too. So, when something breaks, they're instantly behind the curve and scrabbling to make an impact. Putting it bluntly, the 2015 election has shone an Alcatraz-style spotlight on the mainstream media's inadequacy.
Two great examples of this can be seen in The Sun newspaper today. Over the last few decades, The Sun has prided itself in 'calling' the winner of a general election. This stems back to their front page asking for the last person to turn off the lights if Kinnock won in 1992. Quickly followed, when he lost, by their infamous 'It's The Sun Wot Won it' headline. Since then The Sun has 'called' every winner correctly and makes quite a big thing of this 'uncanny' ability.
However, this year things have changed. Because we get our news in free, bite-size, easily digestible doses we take more of it from other places. That means we all know that what The Sun does is just go with the polls. 'It's a Tory' screamed their headline today...in England. In Scotland it screamed: 'Stur Wars! Time to vote SNP!', with a picture of Nicola Sturgeon's head bizarrely photoshopped onto Star Wars' Princess Leia's body. Sadly for The Sun, to everyone who uses social media, what they actually screamed was: 'According to all the recent polls, unless Earth collides with a very large asteroid, the SNP will win almost all the seats in Scotland. Polls also indicate that the Tories will, along with the LibDems, be able to form a government which has the confidence of the House.' Not very exciting is it? And so, for the first time since 1992, no one really cared that they'd 'called' it. If they did care it was only because The Sun might well be wrong this time.
The Sun doesn't like Russell Brand. This is a slight understatement, I'll admit. I'll also admit that Russell is not top of my favourite-people list either. But, unlike The Sun, I do think he has some sound ideas - if only he would learn to stop smothering them with his ego. What I do genuinely admire about Russell Brand, however, is not only how he manages to get millions of people to watch his YouTube videos, but also how he uses social media in general to put one over the mainstream media. Russell Brand is a true poster-boy for correct social media use. At the last count, more than 9.5 million people read his tweets; his YouTube channel has a million subscribers and these videos are regularly viewed by close to three million people. He's business-savvy, intelligent, knows and understands his audience and he targets them successfully and mercilessly. His interview with Ed Miliband was a coup of epic proportions - he stole a face-to-face, one-on-one interview out from underneath every single media outlet in the UK. You can tell how successful he's been by reading the huge deluge of criticism that's been hurled at him - and Ed Miliband.
In my view, no matter how much The Sun et al hate Russell Brand, his interview will have an affect on the way young people vote. How can it not? It might even persuade people to vote who weren't going to under any circumstances - and Brand came close to giving Ed the thumbs up. So, if Labour do end up in power next time, it'll be Russell Brand and social media wot won it - not The Sun.Suggest a correction