Mickey Ambrose gives a personal view of the controversy surrounding the shamed comedian
Readers of Newham Voices know this paper is not like other newspapers and that is why I agreed to write for it. I volunteer my services for the paper because I, like the rest of my colleagues, believe in the paper – we believe in free speech and that we all have the right to be free in a democracy.
Which leads me onto what news story that has been dominating the broadsheets and tabloids which is only 1 percent football related – Russell Brand!!!
Now look I have good reason to divert myself from my usual football column and what normally happens at 3pm on a Saturday or a Sunday (as the painful 3-1 loss to Liverpool reminds us) not least because Brand is a die-hard West Ham supporter.
When West Ham won their first major trophy in 43 years last season Brand admits the celebrations got a little over-exuberant at his home.
“Sometimes I feel it’s a little bit difficult to calibrate, to absorb it,” Brand said on White and Jordan TalkSport Show. “I was there with my dad, Ron Brand, all my mates that are West Ham fans and a few others. My dad broke his ribs…!”
Now I remember Russell Brand turning up at Carpenters Estate in Stratford on his own steam some years ago to support the community of single mothers and women who were protesting against Newham Council’s plans at the time to demolish the Carpenters estate in Stratford.
The group with local campaigners Focus 15 pledged to continue to fight “for decent housing for all”, as more than 100 protesters joined. Brand was one of them.
“I want to see homes for people who need them,” he told the Newham Recorder. “They’re single mums fighting for homes. It doesn’t get any more basic than that unless they start taking organs out of people’s bodies.
“I disagree with people being cleared off Carpenters Estate so they can gentrify the area. What’s happening here is an indication of a much broader story and that’s what I’m interested in.
“If we don’t get involved now who knows what’s going to happen.”
“This story is bad enough, but it’s an indication of a much wider story,” Brand continued in a separate interview with the Guardian.
Now I have never met Russell Brand but of course like most other people, I know of him. He upset me once when he and Jonathan Ross played a nasty prank on Andrew Sachs, our beloved ‘Manuel’ from Fawlty Towers.
But having watched the entire 90 minute Channel 4 Dispatches expose twice to share my opinion with Newham Voices readers, I must admit I have some doubts about it.
I have been a guest expert social commentator for the major broadcasters including Sky News/Sport, BBC News Channel, ITN News@Ten and Good Morning Britain for over 14 years where I debate breaking news stories. I even brought Sky News cameras to Stratford Shopping Mall four years ago to discuss why people are sleeping rough in the borough where we spent millions on the Olympics but we still cannot house them.
I’m not convinced by this documentary. The documentary itself could have been seen as character assassination of Brand who has 7 million internet followers.
Whether or not the documentary makers believed he was getting too powerful and needed to be cut down to size is neither here or there, the fact is many of his supporters will believe that this was the establishment trying to destroy him. This is my opinion.
I watched the documentary twice. It claims he slept with thousands of women. After investigating him for 18 months, they found four women to speak out (three anonymously) and one ready to make a statement to police for justice and her own peace of mind.
Of course, there are reasons for this, not least the fact that many women are put off coming forward because of the low level of convictions for rape and sexual assault in the UK. This is compounded by the treatment some victims face when reporting such crimes and recent cases of police officers committing crimes against women don’t help – it doesn’t always feel a viable or worthwhile option for women.
But that has to change. I hope the police carry out a thorough investigation of the complaint and any others that emerge so justice can be served for victims who have the courage to come forward.
Democracy is about accountability and fairness. Innocence until proven guilty. What we have been witnessing in the press and on television recently is hardly democratic. I can’t help feeling Russell Brand has already been tried in the media and found guilty.
All in all we will have to wait and see what happens next in the saga of this West Ham fan called to account. But I’ve had my say – next month back to West Ham and football. All the best.
Mickey Ambrose is a former Chelsea and Charlton player who lives in Stratford.
(As Newham Voices went to press fresh allegations against Brand have been reported to the police.)