Ed Miliband's Russell Brand interview receives positive youth response

All young voters contacted by pollsters BritainThinks said they liked Brand and had a lot more respect for him than individual politicians

Responses from young people to Ed Miliband’s interview with Russell Brand have been overwhelmingly positive, despite critics dismissing it as a sign of madness.

The Sun called Labour the “Monster raving Labour party”, the Daily Mail asked if we “really want this clown ruling us”, and the Telegraph ran an article about the “silly stunt from a party whose hypocrisy defies belief”. However, the general consensus across social media, as well as among a selection of the Guardian’s polled voters, was that Miliband’s decision to meet Brand was completely vindicated.

Wednesday’s 15-minute interview was published on Brand’s YouTube channel and has now received more than 500,000 views. As a point of comparison, the portrait of Ed Miliband released on Labour’s YouTube channel on Wednesday has had 28,000 views.

The numbers

In the course of the Brand interview, the Labour leader insisted he would stand up to big businesses, expounded the value of voting, warned about the threat to living standards posed by Conservative spending cuts and claimed Rupert Murdoch was “much less powerful than he used to be”.

As a result, Google said searches for the Labour leader jumped by 17%, making him the most searched for party leader on the search engine on Thursday. The top Miliband queries were :

1. Ed Miliband Russell Brand
2. Ed Miliband Russell Brand interview
3. Ed Miliband Russell Brand YouTube
4. The Trews Ed Miliband
5. Russell Brand Ed Miliband full interview

Brand, an outspoken critic of voting and the political system, backed Miliband over the need for credible change, stating: “I completely agree with you, Ed. We don’t want some giddy, Yes-we-can euphoria … People don’t want euphoria this time. People want security and stability and an end to this fear.” The comedian has almost 10m Twitter followers and more than 1 million people have subscribed to his YouTube channel, so his remarks will not go unnoticed.

The response

David Cameron said he had no time to hang out with the “joke” Brand, despite a ComRes poll suggesting 40% of young people “wish more people like Russell Brand got involved in politics”. Even Nick Clegg criticised his coalition partner for his “po-faced piety”, claiming that it was “an insight into quite how mind-numbingly dull the Conservative party campaign has become that they’ve become so critical when anybody choses to do anything a little bit differently”.

All of the young voters contacted by pollsters BritainThinks – who have joined the Guardian to track the political mood of the nation – said they liked Brand and had a lot more respect for him than individual politicians.

In a focus group in Dewsbury, young people said they were impressed that someone as radical and anti-establishment as Brand had found some common ground with Miliband. Those who had seen Cameron dismiss Brand and Miliband as a “joke” felt that this was naïve and reflected badly on the prime minister.

BritainThinks’ Cordelia Hay, who conducted the focus group, said: “There was some cynicism underlying the whole thing – they saw it as a very blatant attempt to reach the youth vote and felt that Miliband was a little bit clumsy in his performance with the weird cockney accents.

“But they said that ultimately this didn’t really matter – they were pleased that one of the main parties was trying a bit harder to engage with younger people and felt that, on the whole, Miliband came across well, managing to get across some good ideas and policies.

“They said that it felt like an important and positive election moment when there haven’t been many and brought it up spontaneously when I asked about ‘key election moments that have changed your mind or confirmed your view’.”

Among those who took part in the Dewsbury focus group, Uwais, 25, said: “I thought it was good – he [Brand] was asking the right questions, the questions I would want to ask. He surprised me, Miliband. He came across well, he handled it well, he had some good ideas.”

Yedidia, 18, said: “I saw it on Facebook and read comments about it. I think it was targeted more at our generation. Everyone on Facebook was saying Miliband did well.”

Husna, 23, said: “I really like Russell Brand. David Cameron said something about Russell Brand being a joke and so Miliband was a joke, but I think he said that because he was intimidated. Russell Brand is very, very confident and for Ed Miliband to go and be interviewed by him knowing what views he has I think it was quite challenging.

“Ed Miliband has done well. You can’t ignore people like Brand who say ‘don’t vote’ because I’m at uni and I’ve never once had a conversation with other students about voting, and the youth vote matters. Cameron’s being a bit naïve to think that Brand doesn’t matter because he does.”

Among those who noted their responses on the BritainThinks mobile app, Joanna, 22, from the Ealing Central & Acton constituency said: “I initially thought Ed was an idiot for having an interview with Russell Brand. Brand is anarchical in his views and it seems odd that a politician would even entertain a debate with him – almost like mixing oil and water.

“However, I actually think it is a great thing to have done, and that Miliband did something really important today. His policies weren’t impressive, the interview didn’t make me more pro-Labour, but it made me respect Miliband for encouraging people to vote through an interview that will be watched by a very different group to the one watching the election debates on the BBC.”

Rochella, 18, from South Thanet, said: “Fair play to Ed for doing the interview with Russell Brand. As Brand said at the end, Ed understands ‘how the media works’ now and clearly did this interview as it probably has an entirely different audience perhaps to those who watch BBC News. I found it helpful, helped me understand that change, not just in politics, but in anything we do takes time. There are no instant results with anything.”


Miliband defended his decision to give the interview to Brand, saying he wanted to engage people who did not vote. “You’ve got millions more people who may well not vote who are not watching, frankly, who are not watching, not listening and are planning not to vote and therefore I will do anything and engage with anyone to try and persuade people to vote,” he said.

The outcome of his attempts can be summarised as thus: Frost/Nixon it was not, but it certainly struck a chord with the target audience.


Nadia Khomami

The GuardianTramp

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