Please excuse me today if I address the subject of the hour, Russell Brand. My tiny connection came because in reaction to a Conservative planning scandal at East Devon District Council, I became one of a number of concerned locals who set up the East Devon Alliance (EDA) in 2013 to challenge what was going on.

Within two years, we realised that we had to put candidates up for district elections and in 2015 the EDA got 10 councillors elected from a standing start. This phenomenon, together with the amazing performances of the independent Claire Wright as a parliamentary candidate (going on to poll 26,000 votes in 2019) caught the attention of national political journalists. Among them was the well-respected Guardian writer, Stephen Moss, who in August 2015 gave me a call.

In that interview I lamented the idiocy of Russell Brand, who was using his social media profile even back then to suggest to his naïve devotees that they shouldn’t now bother to vote at all!

I quote here what Mr Moss wrote:

 Another conversation that influenced me was with Paul Arnott, one of the founders of the East Devon Alliance. The EDA was formed only two years ago to take on the Conservative-dominated council, but it already has 10 councillors …

“I just wanted to take young Russell Brand and flush his head down the khazi,” Arnott told me. “It was so frustrating because we were doing precisely what he was advocating, though we were rather more middle-aged and unattractive. We really wanted to provide an alternative, but because unlike him we’re grown-ups we knew the only way to do it is to put yourself up at local elections – do the hard yards first, Russell.”

I warmed to this notion of a disparate band of locals demanding greater transparency and accountability in local government, drawing support from all parts of the political spectrum and taking on the might of the Conservative political machine.

“People from different backgrounds could come together because they shared a similar radicalism as far as reforming governance was concerned,” said Arnott. “It’s made some quite right-wing people think very hard about the social economy.” This sounded like fluid, grassroots modern politics, not the class-based trench warfare of old.

Rereading this today, I slightly regret my choice of words in suggesting that Mr Brand’s self-centred mind could benefit from flushing in a “khazi” – I think I was trying to allude to the fact that his hair already looked like it had been, but the quote was cut short.

The sentiment, however, I stand by. His repulsive, narcissistic and cruel behaviour towards women has at last been exposed and the term “in plain sight” rightly used.

However, one advantage of this recent exposure is that it has brought to public attention his inflated social media channels, especially on YouTube, as a Trump-defending, vaccine condemning, conspiracy theorist covering topics from Ukraine to the bête noire of the libertarian far right, “the mainstream media”. He omits that this “mainstream media” pretty much gave up on him entirely about five years ago.

They’re out to get me, he says now, just as Trump says that the criminal proceedings against him are a conspiracy and Liz Truss says she was brought down by the entire civil service, the media (mainly Tory-owned!), and those “experts” previously reviled by Michael Gove.

All our freedoms now depend on us protecting our democracy, internationally, nationally, and in the communities where we live. It’s hard, unglamorous work, sometimes thankless, but if we don’t all do it then a future of Brands and Trumps awaits. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.