Hugh hasn’t had a consort as adoring as Chuka since Liz Hurley!
AS the old joke goes, one’s a treacle-voiced smoothie whose silken charms and movie star good looks can make even the sternest matrons go gooey at the kneecaps. The other is Hugh Grant.
That was my cheeky thought after Lib Dem Chuka Umunna’s team bagged the actor to help their man campaigning on the doorsteps and delivering leaflets yesterday afternoon.
Chuka and Hugh walking the streets together. What a prospect! Any bored housewives in the Westminster constituency lounging in their frilly negligees must have assumed that Christmas had arrived early.
An erstwhile unpolitical creature – his deep disregard for the popular Press apart – foppish Grant’s aim is to Stop Boris. Like the Liberal Democrats, he wants Brexit halted forthwith.
The comely pair agreed to meet the media shortly after lunch in a square off Lambeth Bridge that is lined with shiny, expensive, new-build apartment blocks.
Joining us were a gaggle of 30 placardwaving volunteers, their teeth chattering in the winter frost. A decent turnout for a parky Monday afternoon, but then I suspect some voters had merely come for a spot of celebrity rubber-necking.
‘Are you local?’ one was asked. ‘Sort of. I’m from North London,’ the middleaged dear replied. ‘But my gym is quite near here.’
Like all divas, Grant and Chuka had kept them waiting a bit. Bad traffic around Trafalgar Square, apparently. Either that or the gearbox in the actor’s Aston Martin had been playing up.
They arrived with the Lib Dems’ London mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita, who delivered a warm-up speech. She was giddier than a teenybopper at a One Direction concert.
‘I’ve been told not to swoon,’ she tittered, giving the Love Actually star a Martine McCutcheon-style flutter of the eyelids.
Grant graced his latest admirer with his best Hollywood grin. ‘How lovely it could be if you could be our next London mayor,’ he purred.
Out oozed the charm as, in his Johnnie Boden catalogue chic and with a lined face lacquered from a little recent winter sun, he told us that he wasn’t usually one for getting involved in politics.
But these were desperate times, he suggested, because Boris Johnson had expelled any decent or ‘half-sane’ members from the Conservative Party.
‘I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic,’ he said, arching an eyebrow, ‘but then I suppose that is my job.’ The audience, by now putty in his hands, chuckled along gamely.
Chuka, meanwhile, was giving his new buddy several admiring side-eyes. Not since Elizabeth Hurley hung from Grant’s arm in that skimpy, safety-pinned Versace
dress has he had a more adoring consort by his side.
Chuka told his supporters they had ‘ten days to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat’. He said he’d been greatly encouraged by the number of people who’d told him recently that they were ‘not voting for that other lot’ – ie, Labour or Conservative. I wasn’t sure, though, that this sounded like the most resounding Lib Dem endorsement.
Before leaving, Grant happily took questions from the Press.
His ideal outcome was a hung parliament, one where MPs have control over the government. This sounded well-meaning enough, though recent experience of the same suggests nothing would ever get done.
Had he ever considered trying to become an MP? No. He admitted being too ill-disciplined for party politics as he was too pleased with himself to toe the line.
WouLD he cheerfully pay more tax? ‘Yes,’ the actor (estimated to be worth £60million) replied without hesitation. He admitted the word ‘cheerfully’ might be pushing it, though. He went on to complain that he felt there was a misconception that he was some sort of non-dom.
But he made it clear that he has lived in Britain for 59 years and felt he had handed the Treasury his fair share.
By now, everyone was getting chilly. Time to go and knock on a few more doors.
This election campaign isn’t Hugh Grant’s first time at the doorstep, apparently.
He once sold fire extinguishers door-to-door. ‘I was very good at it,’ he assured us chirpily before he and his co-star Chuka waltzed off together into the early sunset.
Ready for our close-ups: Chuka Umunna and Hugh Grant with volunteers yesterday