I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Russell Brand. His stance is more nuanced than the widely quoted ‘don’t vote’. Instead he is asking politicians to give us something worth voting for. Brand’s message isn’t one of apathy – he’s the physical embodiment of the act of spoiling a ballot paper.
In this context, Miliband’s decision to consent to an interview with him was really smart. With a million subscribers, The Trews represents an audience politicians couldn’t otherwise access. The YouTube generation find the notion of debating issues across coloured podiums bizarre, mainstream news channels tedious, and party political broadcasts embarrassing. These are the Trews devotees and they’re a demographic who could, if galvanised towards a polling station, ensure victory for one of the main parties.
The resulting fifteen minute video was far from flawless. There were times when Miliband slipped into ‘Dad at a disco’ mode (see his repeated use of the phrase it ‘aint gonna happen’ which felt odd coming from his otherwise classically enunciating mouth). Equally, there were moments when Brand resembled a seventeen year old sixth former being lectured on the realities of life by his A-Level history teacher. Whilst magnificent when given uninterrupted opportunity to rant, Brand is less skilled as an interrogator – At any moment I expected him to stamp his feet and scream ‘BUT IT’S NOT FAAAAAAIR!’.
Yet my overwhelming feeling after having watched the interview was that it was authentic, and that in being so it had unwittingly revealed so much of the pre-election build-up to be the opposite. By comparison, the televised debates and interviews were both staid and staged. There was, without question, genuine passion on both sides of the Brand/Miliband exchange and being exposed to it made me long for more of that sentiment in the broader political sphere.
It came as no surprise that, ultimately, these two left-leaning men, both in their own ways champions for the rights of ordinary working people, found common ground. That was, in retrospect, inevitable.
For all its flaws, what Brand released into the cyber sphere today represented an entirely new breed of political discourse. In not ignoring the established parameters of televised debate, it felt as though Brand genuinely bought us one step closer to influencing and understanding the higher echelons of power. It was exciting. More, please.
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