The Londoner: Stars show their political stripes

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As political parties battle to shift the dial, The Londoner ponders whether this year’s raft of odd and unexpected celebrity endorsements can change the course of history.

In the yellow corner, the Lib Dems’ backers range from the venerable to the questionable. University Challenge legend Bamber Gascoigne has thrown his support behind Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney in Richmond. “It’s very important that we win back Richmond,” says the 84-year-old who hosted the hit BBC2 quiz show from 1962 to 1987. Gascoigne made it clear he’ll be sticking around though, whatever happens: “I’m very much still Richmond-based — I wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else until the coffin arrives.” And just a few weeks ago Coldplay singer Chris Martin announced he would “probably” vote for the party — an endorsement that will probably cost them even more street cred.

In the red corner, Labour have notched up support from actors, singers and artists galore. Lily Allen, Stormzy, Catastrophe actor Rob Delaney and pop star Dua Lipa are just some of the big names supporting Corbyn. More esoterically, singer Edwyn Collins has declared himself a fan of Keir Starmer, calling the shadow Brexit secretary “a good man, a wise man”, while Bake Off winner David Atherton was out canvassing for Labour’s Fleur Anderson in Putney last night.

This election has also seen celebrities campaigning for different parties in different constituencies. Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan have been trying desperately to forestall Brexit and nix a Tory majority by canvassing for both Labour and the Lib Dems. In the blue corner, it’s rather slim pickings for the Tories whose most famous endorsers seem to be disgruntled former Labour peers and MPs including Lord Sugar and Ian Austin. The Brexit Party says it is shunning stardust. A spokesman told us: “It’s not really our thing. We’re not really celebrity chasers.” That’s lucky because they put forward boxer Dereck Chisora and Jay Aston of Bucks Fizz.

Labour is definitely winning the election fame game— as they were in 2017 and 2015, before losing. Celebrity endorsements — are they worth it?

Theft actually

Hugh Grant wasn’t impressed by the PM’s new campaign video... a Love Actually parody filched from Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s candidate for Tooting, who made the same video two weeks ago. “I did notice that one of the cards from the original film that he didn’t hold up was the one… saying: ‘Because at Christmas you tell the truth’,” Grant told the BBC. “I just wonder if the spin doctors in the Tory Party thought that was a card that wouldn’t look too great in Boris Johnson’s hands.” The Londoner also notes that Johnson chose to play the sneaky suitor rather than the PM who stands up to the US president.

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The Words by Women Awards last night celebrated female political scribes in riposte to the lack of women recognised by the British Journalism Awards. Co-organiser Marie Le Conte told us: “Hopefully we’ve now made our point and award ceremonies will stop overlooking female journalists.” We live in hope.

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Sally Rooney, author of Normal People, wades into the row about the fake assault on Matt Hancock’s adviser. She told Robert Peston: “You described me as one of your heroes. I wonder if... I could persuade you to reveal the names of the senior Tory sources who lied to you about this incident.” This election is not normal, people.

Xmas deal with unexpected Clause​

Comedian Aisling Bea recalls the trauma of working as an elf in an industrial grotto in Ireland. The grotto had 12 doors for children to enter, each one with a Santa behind. One year, a worker fell down a chimney “on top of a Santa Claus”, setting off the building’s fire alarms.

“Suddenly everyone just went out the fire door into a car park including all 12 Santas. “The elves were outside, there were a couple of old Santas having their fags going, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’” she tells Jay Rayner’s podcast. “The children were in the car park screaming because they were seeing so many Santa Clauses.”

Netflix celebrates actors in vogue

(Dave Benett/Getty Images for NET)

Netflix and British Vogue hosted a dinner at Kettner’s Townhouse last night to celebrate Bafta’s Breakthrough Brits. Edward Enninful, British Vogue’s editor-in-chief, and Anne Mensah, vice president of Netflix Original Series, toasted the talent with established stars such as Noel Clarke and actor Damson Idris. Idris, best known for hit US show Snowfall, recently told the ES Magazine of an encounter with rap legend Jay-Z. “He told me that he binged Snowfall during the On the Run II tour… and that apparently Beyoncé couldn’t believe I was actually British.”

Model Adwoa Aboah made it to the dinner, as did actor Kaya Scodelario and Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa. Gatwa, who plays Eric Effiong in the hit Netflix show, told Vogue how quickly he became accustomed to filming the show’s risque content: “After a while, believe it or not, these things were just like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna suck off a banana today.’”

SW1A

So keen is the Prime Minister to win votes, he has learned how to say Get Brexit Done in Welsh — “Cyflawni Brexit.” He told Guto Harri’s SC4 show that it’s oven-ready by saying you can pop it in the “popty ping”, which is Welsh for an oven that goes ping. Harri also taught him to ask for a pint of beer in Welsh. Johnson is no stranger to Wales of course – he first stood for Parliament in Clywd South in 1997.

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Andrea Leadsom posts a photo of a “stress-reduction kit” — a board tied to a wooden beam with a large circle that reads “bang head here”. The Business Secretary captions it: “No comment”. Tough campaign, Andrea?

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If Labour’s Peter Kyle loses his re-election bid in Hove he may not be out of work. Dame Dixon, his Monster Raving Loony Party opponent, says she will put Kyle in charge of “Styles, Tiles & Files. Simply because it rhymes”. It’s a yes from Kyle: “I accept.”

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