Ed Miliband's late-night clandestine interview with Russell Brand has set off a political firestorm today with David Cameron mercilessly attacking the Labour leader for submitting to an interview with the comedian turned activist.
Nine days before a General Election in which one of Britain's most divisive social commentators has hardly featured, Miliband was photographed leaving Brand's house late on Monday night.
A friend of mine lives opposite Russell Brand and snapped this picture of Ed Milliband leaving his house...urm pic.twitter.com/kHGVWFbpVZ— Elisa Misu Solaris (@ElisaMisu) April 27, 2015
Brand's 'The Trews' YouTube series has more than a million subscribers and reaches an audience for whom his "don't vote" message resonates. The Labour Party confirmed today Miliband's meeting was for an interview with Brand.
Cameron quickly responded, saying Brand was "a joke" whom he didn't have time to hang out with.
He did, however, have time to give a long quote explaining why he didn't have time to hang out with him.
"He (Brand) says don't vote, that's his whole view, don't vote, it would only encourage them or something.
"That's funny, it's funny," Cameron said.
"But politics and life and elections and jobs and the economy is not a joke. Russell Brand's a joke. Ed Miliband, hang out with Russell Brand, he's a joke.
"This is not funny, this is about the election, this is about our future, it's about jobs, it's about the economy, it's about the recovery.
"I haven't got time to hang out with Russell Brand. This is more important, these are real people, this is what the election is all about."
Brand eventually fired back, mocking Cameron's membership of the Bullingdon Club and his football blunder when the prime minister forgot which football team he supports.
Don't be jealous Dave - I'll run into you at West Ham - when you're not busy with "ordinary people" pic.twitter.com/wB1Paq9xHV— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) April 28, 2015
Miliband told Sky News' Sophy Ridge: "If I only did interviews with people who agree with me I wouldn't do any interviews."
Miliband tells me re. Russell Brand: if I only did interviews with people who agree with me I wouldn't do any interviews #GE2015— Sophy Ridge (@SophyRidgeSky) April 28, 2015
Much of the right-wing press criticised the decision to meet Brand.
The Spectator's Steerpike column said: "If Miliband is to appear in an episode of Brand’s online show The TrewsIt’s unclear what the Labour leader hopes to gain from it. Is this really an endorsement any serious potential Prime Minister would want? Brand, after all, isn’t exactly known for his searing political insight.
"He believes the economy is ‘not real, that’s why it’s got the word “con” in it’ and that it is ‘just a metaphorical device’."
Left-wing polemicist Owen Jones said the response of many commentators was "sneering" and said speaking to Brand would connect with "disillusioned young people".
Hey, elitist commentators sneering about Ed Miliband being interviewed by Russell Brand! How many disillusioned young people do you reach?— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) April 28, 2015
Other journalists condemned the sneering, with Newsnight editor Ian Katz saying it showed "how power is shifting in the modern world".
Sneers at Miliband going to see Russell Brand, but @thetrews has 1.1m subscribers. Not quite the circulation of the Sun, but still...— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) April 28, 2015
You don't have to agree with Russell Brand to understand that he and his following are engaged with political issues. He's not Joey Essex— Mikey Smith (@mikeysmith) April 28, 2015
Some thought Brand might endorse Labour as a result, a position that would be difficult given his stance on voting.
At a screening of a documentary about his work last week, Brand said the General Election was "irrelevant", adding: "Because there's an election it's a good time to market a film about politics and people are more aware of politics.
"I think people want me to talk about the election but watching it again it just makes me think there's no justice, it's dead."
In January, Brand was dismissed as a "pound-shop Ben Elton" by Labour's Ed Balls after the self-styled revolutionary called him a "clicky-wristed snidey c**t".
It was reference to Brand calling Nigel Farage "a poundshop Enoch Powell".
In 2013, Brand was asked about Miliband by Mehdi Hasan in an interview for The Huffington Post UK.
Brand said "pffft," then added: "We could do better, we deserve better."