Russell Brand takes on Jeremy Paxman and his beard - video
'How come I feel so cross with you?' comedian asks Paxman, as he calls for a revolution on Newsnight
NEWSNIGHT host Jeremy Paxman was left looking slightly bewildered last night as his interviewee Russell Brand bombarded him with reasons for a political revolution.
The comedian – who is guest-editing a special edition of the New Statesman – was on typically flamboyant form, mixing compliments about Paxman's "gorgeous" beard with a tirade against the current political system.
On discovering that Brand had never voted, Paxman asks: "If you can't be arsed to vote, why should we be arsed to listen to your point of view?"
Addressing his interviewer as "Jeremy, my darling", Brand explains that he refuses to vote out of "absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations".
Asked if he had come to this conclusion before the age of 18, Brand replies that he was "busy being a drug addict at that point". He puts his addiction down to the social conditions he was born into, which he says are "exacerbated by an indifferent system that really just administrates for large corporations and ignores the population that it was voted in to serve".
At one point Paxman admits that he agrees with Brand on many of his views. "Then why do I feel so cross with you?" asks the comedian. "It can't be because of that beard... it's gorgeous, grow it longer, tangle it into your armpit hair."
Paxman calls him "a very trivial man" to which Brand responds: "A minute ago you were having a go at me for wanting a revolution, now I'm trivial."
When Paxman pushes Brand on what alternative political system he would design, the comedian tells him: "I've not done it yet Jeremy. I had to edit a magazine last week. I have had a lot on my plate."
The magazine in question is the New Statesman, which Brand is guest-editing. In a 5,000-word article within it he describes his disillusionment with the current political system. "Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people," he writes.
His article provoked acclaim on Twitter – and some criticism.
The veteran journalist Robin Lustig took issue with Brand’s praise of apathy.
“The core of his message is: ‘I will never vote and I don't think you should, either.’” Lustig wrote on the Huffington Post. “He presents it as a message of hope, when in fact it is precisely the opposite. It is a message of despair.”
He ran through a roll-call of people who have benefited by exercising their right to vote: Americans getting health insurance or the first time, black South Africans and Britons earning a minimum wage for the first time after the 1997 Labour landslide.
“Apathy is cowardice,” Lustig insisted. “I can understand people being reluctant to vote because they feel a sense of disgust, but the rational reaction to that is not apathy, but to find candidates – or become a candidate – in whom one is more prepared to have faith.”