The Deputy Prime Minister found himself answering a call on his weekly LBC Radio slot on the benefits of the comedian using his influence to speak out for the less fortunate, in light of The Sun’s claims this week that he was a ‘hypocrite’ for doing so.
The tabloid ran a frontpage a story claiming that Brand pays a large sum of rent to a company that it alleges avoids tax by being based in the British Virgin Isles.
The article claimed its “findings” were at odds with Brand’s anti-taxation and pro-affordable housing rhetoric.
Asked whether he thought politicians could learn from Brand’s message of social consciousness, Clegg said: “Obviously Russell Brand is getting a bit of a kicking from The Sun and others over his own rental arrangements.
“To be honest, I’m not wildly interested in trying to comment on Russell Brand’s accommodation and how he pays rent and all the rest of it.”
“I don’t begrudge him at all,” he continued elsewhere.
“He’s right and I think anybody’s right in our free society to speak out with passion and conviction about things that they think are unjust and need to be changed in society. And that’s actually what I was going to go on to say.
“In suggesting that somehow he should live precisely the life of other people he feels he is speaking on behalf of, I personally don’t believe that, otherwise no-one could speak on behalf of anybody else unless they completely mimic their life. I mean I, for instance, am a passionate believer in prison reform, but I’ve never been in prison. Doesn’t mean I can’t speak about it.”
There’s even one policy of Brand’s that the Deputy PM agrees with:
“As it happens, one thing where I think Russell Brand’s verve and zaniness does do a real power of good that you haven’t mentioned is drugs reform… I think the drugs policy in this country hasn’t worked over a long period of time, so in that sense, all powers to his elbow.”
And there are, of course, a few he is less than enthused by, too:
“I do however think of the big things you’ve talked about, housing, the availability of housing, the jobs market, getting people into work, there are some very, very difficult trade-offs there, given that we’re still carrying the burden of this massive hammer blow to our economic wellbeing because of the crash of 2008.
Russell Brand's Most Controversial Quips
Russell Brand's Most Controversial Quips
1/19 On puberty:
“By puberty I learned that nothing worth having could be easily attained and to succeed one must be single minded."
2/19 On changing the world:
“I want to change the world, and do something valuable and beautiful. I want people to remember me before I'm dead, and then more afterwards.”
3/19 On being strong:
"Strength does not have to be belligerent and loud."
4/19 On grammar:
“I couldn't possibly have sex with someone with such a slender grasp on grammar!”
5/19 On manners in England:
"In England we have such good manners that if someone says something impolite, the police will get involved."
6/19 On junkie v vegetarian:
“Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] - 'I shall have heroin, but I shan't have a hamburger.' What a sexy little paradox.”
7/19 On the future:
“People don't realize that the future is just now, but later.”
8/19 On sex addiction:
“Boggle with sex addicts is up there with go-kart racing with junkies.”
9/19 On life:
“My life is just a series of embarrassing incidents strung together by telling people about those embarrassing incidents.”
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
10/19 On happiness:
"If you want to be happy stop being so self-obsessed and start considering other people."
11/19 On drug addiction:
“The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”
12/19 On sitcoms:
"I do have a regard for the musicality of language that came from BBC sitcoms like Fawlty Towers."
13/19 On life motivation:
"That's what keeps me alive, perversion and star quality.”
14/19 On love:
“When you fall in love you recognise you're not the most important person in the world, and your focus becomes another person.”
15/19 On threesomes:
“I like threesomes with two women, not because I'm a cynical sexual predator. Oh no! But because I'm a romantic. I'm looking for "The One." And I'll find her more quickly if I audition two at a time.”
16/19 On Conservatives:
"Conservatism appeals to our selfishness and fear, our designer and self-interest."
17/19 On surfing:
“Surfing should be called "foam-choking" or "sea stabbing.”
18/19 On Demi Moore:
"I've not made love to her yet, but it's a matter of time."
STEVE MORGAN/AFP/Getty Images
19/19 On success:
"When I was growing up, I thought I'd be a lot happier if I was famous and successful and if I had money."
“I sometimes think that where the debate veers towards a suggestion that there is a very simple solution – if only people had better motives, all would be sorted – in my experience, it’s not quite like that, because you’re having to balance a lot of difficult and sometimes conflicting pressures in an economy that has been as badly damaged as ours was a few years ago.”
“Leave The Sun and Russell Brand to their own spat,” he added in summary. “As I said, he needs to explain and defend themselves. I actually don’t think you should in public life suppose that people can only speak out on issues of public interest if they’ve actually, personally lived through each and every dot and comma of the issues they are talking about. Otherwise representative democracy would not work.”
Clegg had previously spoken up on behalf of Team Brand following a televised debate on his apathy for the current electoral system during a heated Newsnight debate with Jeremy Paxman in 2013.
“Here is a guy who gets paid a million pounds, thereabouts, paid for by taxpayers. He lives off politics and he spends all his time sneering at politics,” Clegg told LBC listeners of Paxman back in November 2013.
“We know that politics is not perfect,” he said. “But at the end of the day it is the way that we decide how you pay your taxes, how we support our hospitals, our schools, whether we are going to war or not, how we deal with climate change.
“Of course it is sometimes unedifying, but this idea that you can just sort of sneer at the whole thing, dismiss everyone as being rogues and charlatans and therefore 'I am going to wash my hands of the whole thing' – I think it is a total abdication of responsibility.”