Britain's opposition Labour party leader, Ed Miliband, has defended his decision to give an interview to Russell Brand, a foul-mouthed comedian who has urged people not to vote, as a way to engage with millions of people who normally shun politics.

"I will do anything and engage with anyone to try and persuade people to vote," Miliband told reporters as a video of the interview went online.

His encounter with a man who scorns politicians but has 9.6m Twitter followers is a tactical gamble ahead of a 7 May election for which opinion polls show Labour running neck-and-neck with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives.

Brand, who was briefly married to US pop star Katy Perry, has used his fame to denounce corporate tax avoidance and social inequality but has also urged followers not to vote because of the "lies, treachery and deceit of the political class".

When news of the interview came out on Tuesday, Cameron dismissed both Brand and Miliband as "a joke" and said "I haven't got time to hang out with Russell Brand".

Critics said it was not prime ministerial of Miliband to appear with a man who routinely uses expletives to describe politicians and advocates a "revolution", but supporters said he was right to take on Brand's views and reach out to the young.

Miliband was interviewed at Brand's home in London on Monday night (27 April). A 90-second trailer posted on Tuesday evening had been viewed over 280,000 times by mid-afternoon on Wednesday. The full 16-minute video was posted later on Brand's YouTube channel, The Trews, which has 1m subscribers.

A ComRes poll of people aged 18-24 found 40% of them wished more people like Brand would get involved in politics.

Cameron has also been lampooned on the campaign trail, particularly after he appeared to forget his favourite football team, declaring himself a West Ham supporter after years of saying he was a fan of Aston Villa.

After Cameron said he had no time to hang out with Brand, the comedian tweeted: "Don't be jealous Dave. I'll run into you at West Ham when you're not busy with 'ordinary people'."

He attached a picture of Cameron as an Oxford student with fellow members of the elitist Bullingdon Club, an image often deployed as evidence of Cameron's privileged background.