Russell Brand is right to be angry over rent question

Russell Brand is angry at being asked about his rent. In fact, we all should be angry…

Russell Brand is right to be angry over rent question
Russell Brand Flips When Pressed on the Price of His Rent

Russell Brand has reacted furiously to a Channel 4 news reporter who asked him about the value of his home, then demanded to know how much his rent is.

It's a pretty personal question, but the reporter Paraic O'Brien clearly thought Brand was fair game. After all, he was standing on Downing Street having helped bring the New Era Estate campaign to national attention - a campaign that is all about the value of rent in the capital.

The estate has been bought by an investment company that now intends to evict the families before Christmas, despite the chronic shortage of affordable homes in the capital meaning they simply have nowhere to go.

Ditch the personal attacks

You can understand why Brand was angry – it's a pretty personal question - but I'd argue that we should all be angry about reporters derailing debates with personal attacks. It's another example of the media chasing the easy story rather than reporting on a genuinely important issue.

What makes me especially angry is that the reporter missed an opportunity. He could have reported on the story that Brand was there to campaign over – it's an important story of women at the very sharp end of London's weighted property market. If the reporter thought that Brand had no place in the campaign then he could have interviewed one of the many eloquent and politically empowered women there to defend their homes.

But instead he went for the easy story, arguably the lazy story; the celebrity story. He undermined the incredible journey those campaigners had been on to bring national attention to the world's plight, and he asked Brand how much his rent was. The implication was clear – he intended the comedian to look like a hypocrite.

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You can already see this in the way it's being reported. One newspaper's headline includes "millionaire comic Russell Brand" and many news reports of the footage mention his wealth.

After all, Russell Brand the millionaire hypocrite is a far easier story to report than the more subtle tale of US investment company Westbrook Partners planning to evict 93 families from the New Era Estate in east London in order to refurbish the flats and put them back on the market at a vastly higher rent.

This is a complex issue that plagues London in particular – where can the average earners live? Should the poor be forced to move away from the city their parents and maybe grandparents lived in? Should London councils be forced to provide homes for the poorest, even though middle earners can't afford to live there? Should investment companies be allowed to evict families to chase profits?

Debate needs to be had

Perhaps you think that Brand shouldn't have been there – although it seems unlikely the issue would have achieved the prominence it has without some celebrity backing. Perhaps you disagree with the campaign and think it's acceptable for people on low incomes to be moved out of the capital and towards cheaper areas. I disagree, but I can see that there's an argument to be had.

However, it is an important argument that brings together many complex threads about poverty, resident security and family stability. It's a lot more bloody complicated than: "What's your rent then, Russell?"

Is the message behind the reporter's question that no one in a position of privilege and plenty should be allowed to care about those less well off? Does the reporter think that Brand shouldn't be allowed a voice in the debate unless he gives away all his wealth? Even if Brand pooled all his assets and personally rehomed these families, it wouldn't make the issue of tenant security in the capital go away – it is an issue our leaders must address.

But I don't even think the reporter was trying to detract from the real debate, although that is what he has achieved. I think he was simply diving after the easy story because he's a hack on a deadline. Somehow that is even more frustrating.

What do you think, was the reporter right to question Brand about his rent? Have your say using the comments below.
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