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Why Cameron could learn something from Miliband's interview with Russell Brand


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In an East London flat, a political interview quite different from all others took place, shaking the established ground of conventional election campaigning. Asking the questions was not a hard-faced journalist, nor a carefully selected panel, but comedian Russell Brand. Not only this, but the interview did not appear in a newspaper, or on a television debate, but on Brand's YouTube Channel, 'The Trews'.

In what has been dubbed the 'digital election', the interview is just one example of the growing  progression of election campaigning towards young people. Social media has been increasingly used by the hopeful candidates. In fact, you'd be hard stretched to find a politician that didn't have an active twitter page.

The change was definitely needed. Last general election, only 44% of people aged 18-24 actually voted. A pretty pathetic number, considering Parliament makes decisions that affect young people's lives all the time, most notably, the tripling of tuition fees to £9,000 in 2012.

But who can blame them, when the only choice is between three main parties, seemingly identical, and equally out of touch with the wants and needs of this generation? The media needed to do better in expressing the voices of young people, and the politicians, of listening to them, so action can be made.

This election, the advancement of multi-media has done wonders at getting more diverse voices heard in the conversation. Radio 1 has brought the party leaders into its Live Lounge, with questions being asked directly from young people from around the UK. The BBC has also brought in new ways of engaging voters, with questions posed to London MPs from a passenger boat on the Thames. There are also online resources where floating voters can simply select the issues important to them, as well as some personal information before an automated system hand picks the policies that matter to that person depended on their selected options. And another that presents policies, and the proposed manifestos, with users given the task of deciding the best policy, the end set being that users are told the party they most agree with according to their policies. An eight-minute clip posted onto YouTube of the Labour leader answering questions from a comedian, is thus not so unconventional after all, and is merely part of growing trend of a shake-up of how we consume our politics.

Brand is not unbiased in his standpoint, and certainly not afraid to asked provoking questions outside of the much trodden usual arena of debate. Considering this, the interview could have been a disaster. Miliband's is frankly not the best for public speaking, and Brand has the natural vocation of a comedian; the two righteously opposite in viewpoint, it is surprising any serious politics was even discussed, and that the entire interview wasn't reduced to a shouting match. Then again, the entirety of the filmed meeting was 35 minutes, cut down to eight, so really, who knows what went on. The interview showed Miliband in a surprisingly good light. Considering Brand called into question the entire system that Miliband works for, whilst employing intense interrogation methods, the Labour leader was solid in his stance, refusing to give any ground at all. To the accusation that change could not be brought about in the current system, Miliband, strong in his conviction replied 'you are wrong'.

David Cameron however, obviously not impressed by the interview, in a statement mocked Milliband in agreeing to the interview. He said 'That's funny, it's funny, Russell Brand is a joke. Ed Miliband, to hang out with Russell Brand, he's a joke'.

The Tories, convinced that Miliband committed a 'public relations disaster', have missed a trick here. Considering that Russell Brand has over nine million twitter followers (David Cameron himself does not even have one million), and that his book 'REVOLUTION' is a UK best seller, his influence, it's safe to say, is extensive. For Cameron to sneer at Brand, whose message appeals to swathes of young people, arguably more so than any politician, is hugely damaging to Tory prospects. It really just shows how out of touch he is to young people. He says 'I don't have time to talk to Russell Brand'. I say that frankly that translates to, 'I don't have time to reach out to young voters', giving the clear signal, 'he does not care about young voters'.

This laziness of the Tories in reaching out to young people and students is clear to be seen here. Canterbury MP Julian Brazier stated that although he was aware that many student's don't vote, he doesn't care. Half of Canterbury's population is made up of students, so of course, it works much better in favour of Tory prospects if young student voters don't vote. A pretty disgraceful attitude to have, in my opinion. And it is this same loss of touch with young people that has shown itself in Tory leader David Cameron, through his condemning of the Miliband-Brand interview.

With the ever progressing digital age, it seems overdue that our leaders step solidly on board with multi-media, including comedian's YouTube channels, if they have any chance of appealing better to young voters. Although granted, this is just one in a long list of ways politicians need to become better equipped at representing the increasingly outspoken and politically minded of this important generation.

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