With Russell Brand no longer an active revolutionary, having officially retired from politics after failing to make an impact on the general election, there’s a vacancy for a new celebrity champion of fashionable political causes. Thankfully Benedict Cumberbatch appears to be doing his best to fit the bill.
The Sherlock actor made the news last week after he ranted on-stage about the government’s response to the refugee crisis following a performance of Hamlet at the Barbican. According to the Daily Mail, Cumberbatch let it be known that he thought the government’s pledge to take 20,000 refugees was not enough, before — eloquently — concluding: ‘f— the politicians’.
As Boris Johnson points out in the Telegraph, Cumberbatch appeared to be more set on criticising politicians than putting forward a solution. Johnson — who says he would have shouted ‘rubbish’ if he had been there — doubts the audience would have remained on his side if he had gone into specifics:
‘How many should we take, in all decency? 200,000? Half a million? I think at that point there might have been a certain amount of shuffling in their seats. Some people might have discovered some fascinating and overlooked detail in their theatre programmes.’
The incident couldn’t help but remind Mr S of Brand, who spent a lot of time calling for change — or more precisely a revolution — but was always scant on the specifics once people said they were on board. While one rant might not be enough to take Cumberbatch into Brand’s league, previous situations suggest that he may have what it takes to go all the way:
1. He likes to speak to (or at least talk about speaking to) politicians
With adoring fans across the world, Cumberbatch could command a meeting with practically anyone. In fact, just earlier this month he talked about arranging a meeting with the Home Secretary to take her to task over the plight of the refugees: ‘I’d like to sit down with Theresa May and get a full understanding of how her political economic model works of structuring an argument that there is virtually a zero degree of financial benefit from an immigrant population.’ The last time Mr S checked though, the Home Secretary was still awaiting a call. Still, given how things turned out for Ed Miliband after he was interviewed by Brand for his news channel The Trews, perhaps it might be advisable for May to turn down the offer, if it ever does materialise.
2. He dislikes Cameron
While Brand once called Cameron a ‘filthy, dirty, posh, w—-r’, Cumberbatch is also limited in his praise. When discussing Conservatism under Cameron, Cumberbatch described the party’s politics as a ‘fat-faced, flatulent Cameron effort at what Toryism – horribly – is now’. Cumberbatch had made his thoughts further known during appearances at protests and rallies against Tory cuts. During a 2010 march, he praised the importance of grass roots movements in politics. Could we have another Corbynista in the making?
3. He can put his foot in it
While Brand can’t help but put his foot in nearly everything he does — from the ill-judged Sachsgate radio prank to cutting off a child’s hair at a teenage cancer event — Cumberbatch is also prone to ruffling feathers. Earlier this year, he attempted to speak out in support of black actors who struggle to find work in the UK, during an interview on the Tavis Smiley show. However, he used the term ‘coloured actors’ which sparked outrage and led to the actor having to issue a grovelling apology.
4. He likes to play down his own privilege
Brand — who is worth an estimated £10 million — has claimed ‘profit’ is a filthy word and spent a large part of his recent documentary on the dangers of capitalism critcising the top one per cent. Meanwhile, Cumberbatch appears to have a similar level of awareness when it comes to his own privilege.
The actor — who attended Harrow — has spoken out against posh-bashing in the past complaining that he faces prejudice even though he’s not that posh; ‘I wasn’t really born with a silver spoon in my mouth, or as part of the landed gentry’. With Cumberbatch previously threatening to leave the UK over the issue and move to America, Mr S is certain he will go down a treat across the pond should he go ahead with it. After all the Americans do love the royals, and Cumberbatch is a distant relative of Richard III — even reading a poem at his burial earlier this year.
5. He’s got Caitlin Moran on side
Caitlin Moran was one of Russell Brand’s loudest cheerleaders, even managing to describe his turn on Question Time as ‘brilliant’. Now Cumberbatch has also won the Times columnist’s support, with the pair teaming up to re-release Crowded House’s Help is Coming to raise money for Save the Children’s refugee appeal. An honourable gesture no doubt, yet while Cumberbatch raises money, Steerpike is yet to hear any word from him when it comes to the £900 million the government has spent helping refugees who have fled Syria.
6. He has a penchant for feminist t-shirts
While Cumberbatch is not as scruffily dressed as Brand, they do share a penchant for t-shirts with feminist slogans. Brand opted for the ‘no more Page 3’ version whereas Cumberbatch chose ‘this is what a feminist looks like’.
— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) January 16, 2014
Mr S hopes Cumberbatch has more luck with his efforts than Brand ever did.