When something is attacked it is a sure sign that the attacker is worried, I mean why attack if you’re not bothered? The news that Ed Miliband has been interviewed by Russell Brand for the comedian’s YouTube channel has been met with derision from the Tories and many media commentators.
With his sleeves rolled up and tie off (how very Blairite) the PM ridiculed Ed Miliband’s decision to be interviewed by declaring it a ‘joke’ and referencing Brand’s previous stance of non-voting. In fact, the PM was misquoting the title of one of my favourite books by right wing (yes right wing!) US political satirist PJ O’Rourke first published in 2010 called, “Don’t vote: it just encourages the bastards”. They don’t write titles like that anymore.
There is a wider point here. Like him or not, Brand is followed, liked and watched by a lot of the young electorate. At the last count there was 10 million Twitter followers and his YouTube interviews or rants, call them what you will, are regularly watched by hundreds of thousands. That is cut-through and engagement well beyond traditional media channels.
Much as I enjoyed Andrew Neil de-constructing David Gauke, Financial Secretary to the Treasury on the Daily Politics on Monday about the ‘letter’ from 5000 small businesses backing the Tories (if you haven’t seen it click here, sit back and enjoy) only 4000 people have viewed it so far on YouTube. Whenever this interview between Brand and Miliband surfaces, best guess is sometime in the next 48 hours, the numbers will blow this out of the water – that is a guarantee.
The PM’s stance is a mistake. When you ridicule one of the leaders of the YouTube generation you ridicule his fans, followers and even his occasional viewers. What’s more, fair play to Ed Miliband for doing it, presumably without prior sight of the questions. He was willing to go toe to toe with a very bright and witty comedian. It could easily blow up in his face but I suspect it will achieve levels of engagement that dozens of interviews on Andrew Marr’s sofa will never achieve.