Saturday 24 March 2018

Miliband pledge to Brand on tax

Ed Miliband and Russell Brand met late last night for a TV interview
Ed Miliband and Russell Brand met late last night for a TV interview

Ed Miliband has told Russell Brand that a Labour government would take on tax avoidance by multinational companies.

The Labour leader made a surprise late-night visit on Monday to the London flat of the comedian-turned-activist, who released an excerpt from the interview on his YouTube channel The Trews.

He told Brand that many voters shared his "outrage" over multi-nationals who use complicated tax arrangements to minimise the amounts they pay, and assured him: "We've got to deal with that."

Mr Miliband insisted: "It can be dealt with, but you've got to have a government that is willing to say there's something wrong with this and we are going to deal with it."

And when Brand asked him "You are that government?", Miliband responded: "Yeah."

Dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, Mr Miliband appeared to be perched on a bar stool in the kitchen area of Brand's flat as he debated with the comedian, dressed in grey sweat-shirt and a long string of beads.

Brand told him: "What I've learned is because of geo-political influences and global finances, it seems it is very difficult at a domestic level to leverage serious influence."

Miliband interjected: "That's just not true."

Brand asked him: "So you are in a position to confront these powerful organisations - the financial industry, trans-national organisations? For example, the average UK worker pays 20% normal tax. Amazon pays 0.05% on £4 billion of sales."

Mr Miliband told him: " We've got to deal with that. First of all you've got to do it internationally, because these companies are mobile round the world and that is hard yards, but you've got to do it.

"And secondly, you've got to be willing to act on your own where you can. There are different countries that have different ways of dealing with these things. Some are more successful than others.

"Of course there are ways to deal with it. It doesn't mean it's easy in a world where capital and companies are mobile. Of course you can deal with these things and of course people share your outrage about companies that don't pay their taxes."

Prime Minister David Cameron denounced Mr Miliband's meeting with Brand as a "joke", after a fuzzy photograph of him leaving the comedian's east London home emerged on Twitter late last night.

Mr Cameron said during a campaign visit to a factory in north London: "As for Russell Brand, he says 'don't vote', that's his whole view, don't vote, it would only encourage them or something.

"That's funny, it's funny. But politics and life and elections and jobs and the economy is not a joke.

"Russell Brand's a joke.

"Ed Miliband, to hang out with Russell Brand, he's a joke."

Pointing to the workers in his audience, the Prime Minister added: "I haven't got time to hang out with Russell Brand, this is more important - these are real people, this is what the election is all about."

Brand responded with a tweet mocking the Premier's blunder last weekend, when he named West Ham United rather than Aston Villa as the football team he supports.

Alongside a picture of Mr Cameron in his Bullingdon Club days, Hammers fan Brand said: "Don't be jealous Dave - I'll run into you at West Ham - when you're not busy with ordinary people."

And Mr Miliband hit back by saying the "joke" was the Prime Minister's refusal to take part in a head-to-head televised showdown with him.

"I think a joke is saying you want this election to be about leadership and then refusing to debate me," he said.

Mr Miliband said he agreed to Brand's request for an interview because he thought it would make the election "more interesting".

Speaking during a campaign visit to Cardiff, the Labour leader said: "I decided that some people were saying the campaign was too boring so I thought it would make it more interesting."

He said he "profoundly" disagreed with Brand's previous declaration that voting does not make a difference.

But he added: "I'm going to go anywhere and talk to anyone to take that message out to people about how we can change this country so it works for working people again.

"I say to all of the politicians in this campaign, here is the danger, the danger is that politics is being played in an increasingly empty stadium.

"If we don't recognise that, if we don't engage in different ways with the people who aren't engaging in this election, then we will have fewer and fewer people voting.

"Russell Brand asked me for an interview and I was very, very happy to accept."

Mr Miliband said if he talked only to people he agreed with, he "wouldn't be doing many interviews".

Brand has made a series of high-profile interventions in recent months, including advocating non-voting and writing a book calling for political revolution.

He has released a documentary film criticising growing inequality between the rich and the poor in Britain and joined a successful anti-eviction campaign for an east London estate.

Following a screening last week, the comedian said the General Election was "irrelevant", adding: "Because there's an election, it's a good time to market a film about politics and people are more aware of politics.

"I think people want me to talk about the election but, watching it again, it just makes me think there's no justice, it's dead."

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls - who previously dismissed Brand as a "pound shop Ben Elton" after the comedian derided him as a "clicky-wristed snidey c***" - told Channel 4 News: " I think there are lots of people who watch his channel and Ed Miliband is going to do interviews with people left, right and centre all across the country.

"I thought David Cameron was a bit foolish today. Once again he was lashing out at Russell Brand and at Ed Miliband. You would have thought by now that David Cameron would have learned these nasty, personal attacks don't work very well. They make him look a bit nasty himself.

"The fact is, if Russell Brand wants to do an interview, and Ed Miliband goes and does it and people watch it, that's good, because it will get more people engaged in politics."

Press Association

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