Stop Applauding “Election Fatigued” Brenda From Bristol

If you are emotionally taxed by having to trundle off to your local polling station once a year, maybe you don’t deserve the privileges of citizenship

I know that the cardinal rule of politics is that the people are always right (unless they happened to vote for Brexit) and must be praised, flattered, bribed and otherwise pandered to at all times, but sometimes individual people are wrong and need to be told as much.

Among this category of people: those who have been extravagantly expressing election fatigue, as though having to spend 30 minutes travelling to their local polling station and putting a cross in a box is far too arduous a task to be demanded on anything more than a biannual basis.

On the day that Theresa May announced that she would seek an early general election on 8 June, “Brenda from Bristol” became an overnight celebrity for her comically exaggerated negative response to a BBC reporter’s request for a vox pop asking her opinion on having to choose a government again.

Naturally in this day and age, Brenda from Bristol immediately went viral, as George Osborne’s rag the Evening Standard reports:

A woman from Bristol whose nonplussed response to news of the General Election sparked a wave of support across the country has told reporters she cannot believe her new “celebrity” status.

Brenda from Bristol caused a stir this week when she was asked what she thought of the election and replied: “You’re joking? Not another one!”

“Oh for God’s sake, I can’t honestly… I can’t stand this.

“There’s too much politics going on at the moment. Why does she need to do it?”

She was later tracked down by BBC reporter John Kay who asked her what she thought of her newfound fame.

According to the same report, Brenda from Bristol is now being “inundated with offers” from other media outlets to offer her comically exaggerated world-weary take on the election campaign on an ongoing basis, by news outlets that would rather get their viewers to chuckle along to something inane than attempt the hard work of educating them on matters of policy.

Meanwhile, nobody seems to have stopped to question whether throwing a hissy fit about being summoned back to the polling station is actually praiseworthy behaviour in the first place.

Even the normally aloof and anti-populist New Statesman sycophantically applauds Brenda from Bristol’s anti-election tirade:

What was your reaction when you found out that there would be yet another election?

That your doormat would no longer be a doormat but a hellish rectangle tiled with garish leaflets of smiling white men making hollow promises? That the only thing on the news now will be people saying the word mandate with increasing passion and intensity? That your Facebook wall will no longer be a heartwarming collage of when you first virtually connected with your lifelong friends but one long sincere ill-written political screed with neither paragraph nor point, but asterisks nonetheless? That you will have to wake up, yet again, dead-eyed and clammy-skinned, on the morning after an election, yet again, to your radio telling you your country voted, yet again, to kick itself wholeheartedly in the teeth?

From the highbrow to the lowbrow press, in other words, Brenda from Bristol is being held up as a role model, lavishly rewarded for a fleeting moment of pointless fame in much the same way that Abby Tomlinson was forced into our collective consciousness after creating the “Milifandom” on social media.

‘Twas ever thus. Pitch a memorable hissy fit on Question Time or heckle a senior politician while the cameras are rolling and the nation’s political media will beat a path to your door as though you are some kind of political oracle, uniquely able to capture and channel the zeitgeist of the moment. Spend your time wading through important but impossibly dense documents and breaking them down so that regular people can get to grips with complex policy issues (as Richard North of and Pete North do so well) and you can look forward to toiling in semi-obscurity, senior journalists well aware of who you are but determined to keep the spotlight away from anybody they consider to be a professional threat.

In a year’s time, Brenda from Bristol will likely have her own talk show, in which fawning politicians will appear to be mockingly berated for trying her patience. Or some enterprising millennial will have set up a YouTube channel for her, in which she records two-minute rants about various policy issues which grind her gears or overly stretch her powers of concentration.

And why? What did Brenda from Bristol do to deserve this fame and this overwhelmingly positive public reaction? She suggested that there is “too much politics”, and that it is unreasonable for ordinary people to march themselves down to a polling station as frequently as once per year to offer their input as to how the country should be run.

Brenda from Bristol is essentially Richard Dawkins’s haughty attitude about non-experts daring to dabble in politics made flesh. Dawkins is famously of the opinion that matters like Britain’s membership of the European Union are so complex and so technocratic that they should be taken permanently out of the hands of ordinary people and left to self-described experts, who of course think dispassionately at all times and are never prone to biases or antipathies which colour their judgments.

This is the real reason why the media is so overwhelmingly supportive of Brenda from Bristol, and why she is receiving so much unearned airtime. Most political journalists are themselves members of the political and cultural elite who have been most upset by Tory rule and further destabilised by Brexit. Nearly to the last person, they support the EU and revile populism because at their core they believe that the people and their base passions should be kept at arm’s length from the levers of political control.

Sure, the political and media class were happy for us to vote once every five years so long as we were picking from a palette of political opinions which are all just varying shades of beige – pro-EU, pro-mass immigration, pro-globalisation, pro-multiculturalism, pro-NHS, pro-welfare state and so on. But when true democratic choice becomes available – as it was with Brexit, and as Jeremy Corbyn currently offers with the Labour Party – they take fright, worried that the British people will select a future for themselves other than the one which the elite have carefully laid out.

No wonder that Brenda from Bristol unwittingly became their idol. Albeit for very different reasons – sheer laziness on the part of Brenda, a desire to regain the initiative and take back control on the part of the elite – both of them want the same thing. Both Brenda and the political elite want ordinary people to outsource the major decisions impacting their lives to an elite class of self-described experts. They essentially support technocracy over democracy.

The rise of Brenda from Bristol therefore damns us all. It puts much of our political and media class to shame for disrespecting democracy and seeking to put down the growing rebellion against self-interested rule of the elites, by the elites and for the elites. But it also puts we the people to shame for being so lacking in political engagement and civic virtue that we genuinely consider it an unwarranted imposition to have to remain educated on political matters throughout the five-year electoral cycle.

Brenda from Bristol represents a shared desire for a return to the stale old status quo, where bipartisan consensus on all the core questions made a mockery of democracy and rendered general elections a mere “rubber stamp” occasionally given by the people to the political elite.

For the sake of all the work we have done to overthrow this failed model of governance, we should stop praising her.


Brenda from Bristol - UK Britain General Election 2017 - Voter Apathy

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3 thoughts on “Stop Applauding “Election Fatigued” Brenda From Bristol

  1. Ben Robertson April 23, 2017 / 4:17 PM

    I fully agree with Ashley’s comment. You’re making a lot of assumptions about Brenda from Bristol. She might expect her government to stay the course unless it is unable to govern and needs a fresh mandate (not the case with this government, which got its Article 50 bill through with a massive majority). She might not mind going to the polling station, but not want to listen to vacuous political argy-bargy for the next 7 weeks. Or to trouble herself in assessing the issues and deciding how to vote when there is no need for her to do so. Or perhaps she resents the shameless opportunism of Theresa May in calling this election, against a hopeless Labour opposition, so that she can steamroller whatever she wants through the House of Commons. I’d concur with her in all these sentiments, if that is what she felt.

    Bear in mind too that she was doorstepped and this was her immediate reaction, not a thought-out response. Who knows what she’d have said when she’d had a chance to think about it? She’s an ordinary member of the public, not a professional politician.

    However, you have reduced your commentary to poor Brenda being too lazy and stupid to vote, and then moved on to some nonsense about the people vs the elites. It is rather unfair and patronising on your part. I do agree that the public is not as politically engaged as it should be, but we can’t expect everyone to share our passion for politics. The public has a right to expect their government to make decisions on their behalf without calling elections when the only purpose is to capitalise on opposition weakness for party political advantage.


  2. ashleywills April 22, 2017 / 9:34 PM

    Bit excessive. Brenda clearly didn’t anticipate what would unfurl from her own excessive initial remark and it’s a stretch to read from this her EU Ref voting preference (if that is what you are actually doing).

    The truth is, is that it’s not the act of voting which is so bothersome but the sense of weariness that comes with a general election campaign. It inspires near blanket universal coverage on every media platform and as you highlighted above, much of the coverage is exceptionally shallow and repetitive.

    People get easily bored and sick to the back teeth of seeing the same old mantra’s being endlessly repeated morning, noon and night. It becomes tedious. The voting part is a mixture of excitement or relief, or both, depending on your disposition. I’m very interested in politics but the constant hyper-focus does elicit fatigue. I need a break from time to time myself. The tolerance of others is clearly at a lower bar, although each individual will vary.

    Brenda the Meme is simply a comical, exaggerated reflection of this state of affairs. She exhibits an understandable fatigue at the last couple of years where politics, as refracted through the media, has become a national current affairs drama that is in an almost continuous state of one-upmanship and tumult. In many ways, there’s a certain irony that the media have latched onto Brenda given her reaction is actually an example of someone who has themselves been a victim of the media.

    Brenda and millions like her have been shortchanged and under-served by the very same media that now hold her aloft as a paragon of exhausted and malnourished citizen voters.

    Brenda is not expressing discontent at the political process of democracy and national governance, but is instead showing her exasperation at the media soap opera that surrounds it, infiltrates it and ultimately undermines it. Brenda is actually, on your side – she just doesn’t know it.


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