Russell Brand has said he thinks he contributed to Jeremy Corbyn’s rise “in some small way” after condemning “meaningless” partisan politics years ago.
The comedian and author was appearing on BBC’s Newsnight when he was quizzed about his “apathy” after famously suggesting voting was not worth it.
But the comic, who has 12 million Twitter followers, endorsed Ed Miliband at the last minute after interviewing him for his The Trews YouTube channel.
This year, Brand voted for Jeremy Corbyn. In a blog for HuffPost UK before the vote that saw Corbyn and the Labour Party defy expectations, he declared he wanted Corbyn as Prime Minister, arguing: “Whether it’s the Iraq War or badger-baiting, Corbyn has been allied with common sense and compassion in pretty much every Parliamentary argument.”
Speaking to Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, Brand said his view that “partisan politics is meaningless” had been “borne out” by the Brexit vote and Corbyn’s rise.
“I don’t think there was some kind of soothsayer Nostradamus on a peninsula peering out into the bleak unknowable, I was simply taking the temperature and speaking on behalf of a lot of people,” he added.
Dismissing again a suggestion of apathy, Brand argued his “more optimistic moments ... may in some small way have contributed to what we have subsequently seen”, including the Labour Party “electing a leader that is engaged and engaging that is authentic”.
This is the full exchange:
Maitlis: “So when I look back and I think you said you never voted. And that was a result of absolute indifference and weariness. Do you stand by that as an explanation or was that a depression speaking at this time?”
Brand: “No it’s not mental illness Emily, no. It was a reaction to politics at that time which I think subsequently it’s borne out that a lot of people felt similarly, that they were not being offered viable alternatives and subsequent to me saying partisan politics is meaningless, we’ve seen a huge lurch to the right. We’ve seen Brexit. We’ve seen the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. I don’t think there was some kind of soothsayer Nostradamus on a peninsula peering out into the bleak unknowable, I was simply taking the temperature and speaking on behalf of a lot of people.”
Maitlis: “But a lot of people who followed your lead on that and thought oh, Russell Brand’s apathetic, I don’t need to vote. The world is too crazy a place isn’t it, to be apathetic?
Brand: “I’m not apathetic, I don’t think people could ever mistake me for being apathetic. Do you really, like meeting me and me talking to me, think I’m apathetic?”
Maitlis: “I wonder why you didn’t vote?”
Brand: “I voted for Jeremy Corbyn, you know why? Because they weren’t realistic options at that point were there? I mean that’s not - I think the genie’s out of the bottle on that one, Emily. I think that’s - history has borne out, look at what’s going on now.”
Maitlis: “When you look back, do you think it was irresponsible to encourage people not to vote?”
Brand: “No as a matter of fact in my more optimistic moments I hope that it may in some small way have contributed to what we have subsequently seen. The Labour Party electing a leader that is engaged and engaging that is authentic and that is truthful and is listening to people and that seems to be a like a human being that connects, not some bizarre automaton technocrat lunatic with a rictus grin staring at you out of the pages of a Quentin Blake book, like a real human. So I think it’s a great thing.”
Before the election, Brand released a video pleading with young people to register to vote, showing how to navigate and sign up through the Government’s own gov.ukwebsite.
After the 2015 defeat for Labour, the author and actor blamed himself for “fucking up the election” by getting Miliband to come round to his house for the online interview.
David Cameron had called Miliband “a joke” for agreeing to the event with the comedian and the tabloids ferociously attacked the Labour leader’s ‘mockney’ accent.
Brand backed Corbyn in the 2015 Labour leadership race after Tony Blair had criticised his supporters for voting with their ‘hearts’. He has also advocated voting Green in the past.