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Russell Brand to address Momentum’s festival at Labour Party conference on addiction and mental health

Exclusive: The comedian will join Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, to discuss mental health and addiction

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 12 September 2017 12:28 BST
Comedian Russell Brand speaks to thousands of demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square to protest against austerity and spending cuts in 2015
Comedian Russell Brand speaks to thousands of demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square to protest against austerity and spending cuts in 2015 (Getty)

Russell Brand will speak at Momentum’s festival during Labour’s annual conference later this month to discuss addiction and future policy addressing mental health.

The comedian who has maintained a low-profile in politics since 2015 will appear alongside Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, who earlier this year disclosed his own father’s addiction to alcohol.

Brand has spoken publicly about his own recovery from the “disease of addiction” and earlier this month published a book detailing his struggles with alcohol, drugs and a sex addiction.

He is expected to appear on the third day of Momentum’s festival – the World Transformed – which will once again host its own events on the doorstep of Labour’s official gathering in Brighton in two weeks’ time.

The four-day festival by Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters will be hosted in nine different venues across the city, including a nightclub and a church turned art gallery.

Ruaraidh Paton, an organiser of the festival, told The Independent that Brand’s contribution to discussions about drug addiction in the UK and beyond “have undoubtedly changed the way many young people think about addiction and the social conditions which create it.“

He added: “Brand was frank, brave and bold when he used his platform to challenge mainstream discourse on addiction and to campaign for solutions not penalties. It’s a honour to have both Russell and Jon at The World Transformed, sharing their experiences and ideas.”

Addressing an event in the Commons earlier this year Mr Ashworth shared his experience of growing up with an alcoholic father, adding that from the age of eight he effectively acted as a carer for him.

“It would be very typical for my Dad to pick me up from school – literally fall over because he was so drunk,” he told MPs.

Ahead of Labour’s conference, Mr Ashworth told The Independent that estimates suggest as many as two million children grow up in the shadow of an alcoholic parent. “Yet there is no national policy framework to support such children,” he said.

Labour’s health chief added: “What’s more thanks to Tory cuts to community health budgets support for those with drug and alcohol abuse issues fails to get the priority it deserves.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour's shadow Health Secretary (Getty)

“This agenda is a personal priority and [as] Labour Health Secretary I would put in place a national strategy to support those with addiction issues and their families.”

Brand has maintained a relatively low profile in politics since throwing his weight behind Ed Miliband’s failed bid for Downing Street in 2015 but he did endorse Mr Corbyn’s bid for Prime Minister before June’s snap election, claiming: “A Labour government won’t be perfect, it will be operating within a system that opposes its new, manifest agenda to serve the people it will be elected to govern.

But, he added: “Electing the Tories for another five years, to throw the opportunity for change into the distant indeterminate wasteland of 2022 would be an act of collective self-loathing bordering on mass sadomasochism.

“We must have some faith in humanity, some faith in one another, some hope that we can build a better society together, rather than burrowing downward from the gutter to whatever circle may be propping up hell.”

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