“I’m not a massive fan of Russell Brand, but I found Miliband quite genuine.
Cameron comes across as scripted and managed by special advisers. It was nice to see a politician talking normally,” said Adam Taylor, 19, a student living in Glasgow. He was giving his verdict on Russell Brand’s interview with Ed Miliband, broadcast on Brand’s YouTube channel The Trews, which has more than one million subscribers.
Many people, including the vast majority of young people, feel abandoned by the political elite. Voter turnout amongst 18- to 24-year-olds far outstrips the ‘grey vote’ and politicians are rightly accused of ignoring the needs of young voters.
“MPs don’t relate to us. They don’t feel our opinion matters. But Ed Miliband tried to understand what Brand was saying, he wasn’t just trying to promote his party, he wanted to understand how people were feeling,” said Sheila Amedodah, 17, from London.
David Cameron has said he has no time to “hang out” with the “joke” Russell Brand, who has previously urged people not to vote. Cameron said that he was focusing on the more important task of promoting Britain’s economic recovery.
Was it sensible of Miliband to connect himself with someone who is said to resonate strongly with disaffected young people? Was this the type of engagement that’s been missing in the election campaign so far? Or, with 28% of young people believing Brand “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” has the interview reduced Miliband’s credentials as prime minister, only days before the election?
Here’s what young people had to say about about the ‘Milibrand’ interview.
What did you think of Ed’s performance and what did you think about him dropping his ‘t’s?
Adam, 19, student, Glasgow: “I’m not a massive fan of Brand, but I found Miliband quite genuine. I doubt someone told him to talk more street but I think when you’re around someone like Russell Brand you probably pick up on the lingo.
Before the campaign, we saw Ed Miliband eating a sandwich and to be honest, we all saw him as a bit of a joke. But people are warming to him and he’s slightly endearing. People are saying that he’s starting to act like a prime minister.
I don’t like Cameron much. His whole background, the fact he comes from Eton and Oxford. How can he think like a normal person? I know people who’ve been affected by the bedroom tax. How can he understand those people?
I liked the setting. You really want to see Brand drinking out of the bottle of water, and [to see] the scented candle. It makes you feel unsettled when you watch it, it’s not like a normal interview, which is just great.
Sheila Amedodah, 17, student, London: “I think Ed was trying to relate, and he was really trying. Cameron brushed off the interview with Russell Brand as a joke. People my age feel parties aren’t genuine. A lot of my friends are like me, we think MPs don’t relate to young people. It was interesting to see him in such a relaxed environment, and interesting to see how he’d tackle Russell Brand, which in my opinion he did quite well!”
Andrew Lawrenson, 22, engineer, St Helens: “He [Miliband] made David Cameron look like an old man with his attack on them both branding it a joke. I think he will have won over a lot more young voters and could of even persuaded a lot more to vote. I think he handled himself well, didn’t shy away from the questions and stood up for what he believed. All in all a brilliant PR stunt.”
How well-respected is Russell Brand amongst young people? And was it wise for Miliband to be interviewed by him?
Adam: “Brand is way too over the top. I don’t even think he understands a lot of the language he uses. I don’t think politics is for him. He does come from a certain background, but he still has millions and I’m not sure he can think like someone who doesn’t.
This was definitely a clever move on Miliband’s part. I thought he handled Brand really well, and he came across as very realistic. I have doubted Miliband’s capabilities and personality, but I believe if he can handle Russell Brand, he can handle anything!”
Andrew: “I think Ed Miliband has played an absolute blinder by being interviewed by one of the most vocal celebrities of our time. He had to find a way to appeal to the younger generation who are constantly influenced by social media, as it is a big part of everyone’s lives now.”
Sheila: “I think the interview will have a good effect on Ed, not Labour necessarily. Russell Brand is known as an anarchist and the interview would have helped Ed to get down to Russell Brand’s level and hear how people really feel.
You can feel lost in the TV debates as there’s a lot of political jargon – for example people don’t really know the difference between debt and deficit. Russell Brand is a level people can understand.”
Has it swayed how you might vote?
Adam: “I wasn’t sure if I was going to vote, but the one thing Miliband said that really persuaded me is that it’s people that make change. And it’s true, you can’t complain about politics if you don’t vote.
This could have a huge effect on votes. The interview is going viral and young people will see it as they use the internet and they’ll see Ed Miliband and think that his policies are good, and he doesn’t come across as completely terrible so maybe I’ll vote for him. I think a lot of people are registered to vote, so this may sway them.”
Andrew: “I think I am more likely to vote Labour now and it could possibly persuade others too as I think he gained a lot of respect for taking the interview with Russell Brand. I can’t predict if this will make him win but it will have gained him extra votes.
I think he did appeal to young people as he was interviewed by Brand, a man who appeals to the younger generation. I think publicity wise it was an excellent move and I think he will have gained a lot of respect for this.”
Sheila: “I’m very frustrated that I can’t vote. Personally I would. I thought I might vote Green, but recently changed my mind to Labour. Ed relates more to young people than Cameron. For Cameron, young people aren’t his priority.
I didn’t think Brand was in full support of Labour, perhaps in support of some things Miliband was saying. But I didn’t feel that Brand was particularly supporting Labour in the interview.”
What do you want politicians to do for you?
Adam: “I’d like to see the voting age lowered to 16, and Miliband said this is something he’s into. I’ve been living in Scotland since September and I’ve been really inspired in the independence vote. I think we need less political jargon, most people don’t know what the deficit means. We need to simplify it, but we don’t want to be patronised.”
Sheila: “I want to know what politicians are going to do about the NHS, or how they’re going to get young people engaged in politics.
They don’t feel our opinion matters. They only seem to care about us six months before the election. They’re only interested in votes.”
This article was written by Carmen Fishwick, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 29th April 2015 23.11 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010