LONDON — In a surprise U-turn on Monday, British comedian and activist Russell Brand urged his 9.61 million followers on Twitter to do the very thing he’s famous for telling people not to do: vote.
And when they cast their ballots in Britain's general election on Thursday, he’s hoping they tick the box for the local candidate of the Labor Party, led by Ed Miliband.
“There’s loads of things I could complain about with Ed Miliband.... What’s important is this bloke will be in Parliament and I think this bloke will listen to us. So on May the 7th, vote Labor. On May the 8th, more democracy,” he said on his YouTube channel, the Trews.
Brand, who has previously urged people not to vote, saying the system is defunct, said he was now backing Labor (everywhere except Brighton and Scotland) because he believes it is the party that will champion community-led activism on issues such as housing and poverty.
The two main parties, Labor and Conservative, are neck and neck, and nothing much has managed to shift the needle during the election campaign. It seems unlikely that an endorsement from Brand will be the thing that suddenly pushes Miliband’s party out in front. Nonetheless, it could be important for Labor in its drive for the youth vote.
Miliband took a gamble last week when he sat down with Brand, and it wasn’t clear at the time whether an interview with the man who artfully took down the team at MSNBC's "Morning Joe" would work in the politician's favor or backfire. For his part, David Cameron, the British prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, has called Brand “a joke.”
You can see excerpts from the interview here:
— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) May 4, 2015
“I know I’ve been Mr. Don’t Vote,” Brand acknowledged in his video. “But, actually, what I mean is politics isn’t something that we can just be involved in once every five years. Democracy is for every day,” he said. He added: “What I heard Ed Miliband say is that if we speak, he will listen.”
The endorsement from Brand will be welcome news for Miliband, whose critics have been having a field day since Sunday after Labor unveiled its election pledges carved into an eight-foot slab of stone. It was soon trending on Twitter under the hashtag #Edstone, and the references to Moses were aplenty.
Who does he think he is? Moses? Future archaeologists will gaze with bafflement at this waste of good stone. pic.twitter.com/DKwDs5Kz4b
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 3, 2015
Miliband on Monday defended literally carving his promises in stone, telling the BBC that there was an issue of trust in politics and that the stone had "got people talking."