We were all seduced by Brand’s cheeky persona. It’s not so funny any more

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There has always been “something of the night” about Russell Brand, to use Ann Widdecombe’s phrase. Widdecombe may indeed be one of the few women that Brand would not try to seduce, but Brand has always revelled in his own shadow – a darkness that has served him well.

When he first appeared on MTV and then Big Brother’s Big Mouth in the mid-2000s, people were knocked out by his sheer brio and verbosity. Here was an Essex dandy in skinny jeans, with a hugely fat vocabulary, who could never get enough of himself. At the time, he was on heroin and crack – a dangerous kind of cheeky chappy who flirted outrageously with everyone he interviewed, who could not see a taboo without wanting to bust it.

Three-time “Shagger of the Year” Russell Brand.Credit: ABC

True, his way with words is indeed impressive. At the height of his fame he hardly paused for breath as he proclaimed his revolutionary zeal. Now he faces some very serious allegations charting a seven-year period that includes rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse.

The most disturbing of these is the accusation of a relationship with a 16-year-old when he was 30.

As these allegations were about to break, Brand made a video in which he said he “absolutely refutes” the accusations claiming his relationships were “always consensual”. He described them on his incredibly successful YouTube channel as “baroque”. What does this mean? Baroque is usually used to describe an ornate style of 17th- or 18th-century architecture or music. In fact here it means nothing. Nothing at all.

Brand is a master at using language to both obfuscate and bedazzle. He has run rings round skilled interlocutors such as Jeremy Paxman and Bill Maher with an incessant, garrulous stream of “talking points”. There is no pause for dialogue. Indeed, when others are talking Brand visibly glazes over. So he talks excessively? Excess was for a long time his selling point. An addict of drink, drugs and sex. An uncontrollable force of nature who is somehow reformed. Oh, how we love a redemption narrative and how many took Brand to their hearts.

His treatment of women, which has always been talked about, was recast in the era that so many “lads mags” brought about as just part of his appeal. He was celebrated for three years running as “Shagger of the Year”. Women fell at his feet.

I certainly did not know a female journalist or stylist or photographer or make-up woman with whom he did not try it on as part of his infamous five-a-day routine. In 2006, Danni Minogue called him “a bit of a vile predator” who had not cured the sex addiction he had gone to rehab for the previous year. Brand’s response was that maybe he had a “a bit of an eye for the ladies” but “predator” was ill-judged. “What sort of language are you left with for Peter Sutcliffe and Ian Huntley?” – what a clever rhetorical flourish.

In the next few years Brand was to become a darling of the left. He married Katy Perry, he went to Hollywood and became a genuine celebrity, his exploits tabloid fodder. He was best man at Noel Gallagher’s wedding. It seemed as if he was everywhere, preaching revolution with his booky wooks.

He campaigned for abstinence policies for drug addiction and in 2014 joined the anti-capitalist protesters during the “Million Mask March”.

A few months later, Prospect named him as the world’s fourth most influential thinker. In 2014 George Monbiot talked about him as being the “best thing that has happened to the left in years”.

He started his own terrible news channel The Trews. The revolution, it appeared, would be televised. It certainly became a book.

Everyone, it seemed, was just ego-fodder. He would climb the ladder of politics, Hollywood, TV, quasi-mysticism, stepping on whoever had to be stepped on. The only thing you had to believe in was him.

Credit: ABC

But by this point, some of us were no longer enamoured. But, by 2014 he was also talking a lot about a kind of Buddhist spiritual awakening. When I was asked by Vanity Fair to contribute to a profile, I spoke about how he cloaked his history – I’ll call it sexism – in this new spiritual talk. “He plays this double game,” I wrote, “being very self-aware of his past misdeeds … but I don’t know how much respect he has or shows to women.”

Indeed, of his book Recovery, in which he reworked the usual 12-step programme where one must apologise to those harmed by one’s addiction, he once said that to apologise to women for his promiscuity would be like Saddam Hussein saying sorry to individual Kurds. It’s a typical Brand line: knowing and self-congratulatory.

The recent allegations make this less funny. They are very serious, albeit no charges have yet been brought forward.

The testimony of the 16-year-old girl who claims she was groomed is devastating in its details. This is a description of coercive control. She told Channel 4’s Dispatches and The Sunday Times that even the taxi driver who took her to his house begged her not to go in. According to the Dispatches documentary, Brand was surrounded by producers and program makers which raises the question as to what was known about.

Why did none of these women come forward before now some ask? Well, would they be believed? Would there be enough evidence, even though there are texts and corroboration?

Brand was powerful then and is powerful now, as some kind of “wellness” guru with more than 6 million YouTube subscribers. He has “settled down”, but rather than changing nappies he would rather hang out with alt-right figures with predictable conspiracy theories about vaccines (anti), Putin (pro), you name it. His slide from vaguely left to alt-right was seamless. He always thought he was special and had access to the truth.

Those defending him now are Andrew Tate, Elon Musk, Jordan Peterson, the new #metoo of the men’s movement.

One thing is for sure, Brand has only ever been about himself and his own power. Did he overpower young girls and make one gag and cry till their mascara ran, a thing he said he liked to see in his stand-up sets? Did he pin women down when they said no? He denies doing so.

Well, enough was never enough for Brand. That seems to me his deal. There is no rehab for an addiction to power.

The Telegraph, London

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