If you had to choose the last place on earth you’d meet a former addict promoting a self help book called Recovery where would you pick?
A pub? Well, believe it or not, that’s where I met the comedian Russell Brand on a Friday afternoon in September.
Nestled into a big armchair in North London’s York & Albany, he was sipping on a green juice (you couldn’t make this up) when I walked in. “You seem really happy and relaxed,” I told him as he beamed up at me.
Russell Brand seems a very different man from the one who guest edited the New Statesman four years ago. From telling people not to vote, to changing his mind and supporting the Labour party, I’m keen to find out where head is at now.
In just the space of a year, Brand has moved out of London, got married and had a baby. Those are big changes for anyone, let alone a man whose passing romances once fascinated the tabloids. Life for him now is less rock ’n roll and more nappies and nurturing the family’s 60,000 bees. He’s in recovery and is keen to tell the world how he’s been there, struggled and come out the other side.
“I feel brilliant, I’ve got such a lovely baby and a beautiful wife. If you do believe that the material world is an illusion, and that the only real thing is love, then it’s all a relief.” To say that Brand is more positive today than ever would be an understatement. He is even positive about the state of our political system and reflects how his beliefs have changed since his guest edit in 2013.
“I don’t know if I would consider running for Prime Minister actually,” he says. “For the first time I can remember, we now have a politician in Jeremy Corbyn who I feel relaxed about. I’m very happy to support Corbyn. When I said ‘don’t vote’ it wasn’t even an opinion really, it was just that no one I know votes. It’s accepted that voting is bollocks. However I did vote for Corbyn this time because he was talking about normal stuff.”
Brand would like to work with the government, but he isn’t sure where he would fit in. I suggest he could become Corbyn’s aide, which made him laugh. “I would like to participate in the movement to bring power closer to the people and I think Corbyn is all about that. Would I go and work on the coaching team at West Ham? Yes. It’s the same with working with Parliament. I’d like that yes, but I don’t know how realistic it would be.”
The rebranding of Brand may be already underway, but he believes his transformation is just one of many. Naturally, it all ties into the ideas in his self-help book too. If people change, the society changes, and Brand sees himself as the man to help push this along. “We are experiencing a lot of change around identity at the moment with people not wanting to be categorised,” Brand explains. “This is now having political inflexions. My personal belief is that if you start to change the way people see themselves, then political change is inevitable.”
Brexit is another core element of this change in Brand’s mind. When I asked him what he thinks Brexit means he says it’s “obvious”. Brexit is about “fracture and dissatisfaction and it shows politicians’ inability to correctly interpret what people are thinking and feeling”.
Dismissing Theresa May as a “peculiar Quentin Blake character come to life who just terrorises people”, Brand feels that she will be out of power soon enough anyway. “I wouldn’t call a second referendum because I don’t think I’d need to. The situation with our government will take care of itself to be honest. The Tories won’t be able to pull themselves together and the EU can’t allow Britain to be seen to come out of Brexit with a good deal. There will be a bad deal and the Tory party will start splitting. A significant number of the Tory party don’t believe in Brexit anyway. Something will happen, things will kick off. An election will happen and Labour will win.”
Once Britain has been sorted out, Brand can move on to helping the wider world. “In this country, I do think you’d see significant change if we had a Labour government in power under Corbyn as our Prime Minister. Although that would be existing in relation to our international partners and transnational corporations. Transnational means, as far as I can see, ‘bigger than nations’. Perhaps now our British flag is just a tablecloth across corporate interest.” Can Brand change that too? He can certainly try.
Emily Wadsworth is the lifestyle editor at Verdict. You can read an extended Q&A version of the interview at Verdict here.