Had Chuka Umunna sprayed something citrusy around his gills? HENRY DEEDES on a Lib Dem fashion parade
Smoothychops Lib Dem pin-up Chuka Umunna hosted an election event yesterday in fashionable London Bridge.
Of course he did. Not for natty Chuka the grimy factories of the industrial North we’ve been stomping around during this campaign. Nor, God forbid, the squelching, bog-ridden meadows in his party’s West Country heartlands.
Instead, he’d arranged a suitably recherché venue which enjoyed what chalk-striped property spivs might term ‘stunning views over the historic river Thames’.
Looming over us, the mighty dome of St Paul’s competed for supremacy with that peculiar building known as the ‘Walkie Talkie’.
Through the windows, a pleasant aroma of artisan delights wafted from nearby Borough Market.
The message of the day was: Forget those beastly two main parties. The Conservatives have become entrenched in ugly, Trump-style nationalism, while Labour is now a cesspit of anti-Semites. Us Liberal Democrats are the only nice guys in British politics
The message of the day was: Forget those beastly two main parties. The Conservatives have become entrenched in ugly, Trump-style nationalism, while Labour is now a cesspit of anti-Semites.
Us Liberal Democrats are the only nice guys in British politics.
The Liberals have been playing this fluffy, third-way card since time immemorial, as though their inherent pointlessness denotes a certain decency. Their first whiff of power in the 2010 coalition government, however, proved that this is a tricky façade to maintain when tough decisions need to be made.
This time round, they had at least bagged themselves a celebrity backer to argue their case. You may not have heard of Eddie Marsan but will almost certainly have seen the gritty actor over the past decade.
The most devastating testimony of the morning came from Luciana Berger, who – like Chuka – fled Labour earlier this year after her existence under Corbyn’s leadership became intolerable
Once an habitué of joyless Mike Leigh dramas, he’s since made hay over in Hollywood playing the requisite British baddie. As character actors go the guy’s mustard. A cockney De Niro.
East London lad Eddie, dressed in a grey Guernsey knit, claimed he’d been a pukka Labour man through and through ever since he saw Neil Kinnock’s famous 1987 conference speech when he faced down the party’s militant loons.
He’d voted for Blair and Brown, loves the NHS, hated the Iraq war etc.
Jeremy Corbyn’s lot, though, were a rabble. Racist, too. Marsan has suffered years of abuse for making this point on Twitter. (Why celebrities persevere with that moron-infested swamp is a mystery.)
The idea of voting Liberal Democrat felt good, he said. Like having a ‘political enema’. Ugh! Too much information, Eddie. Still, it was nice to see him perform without having to queue at a Leicester Square box office, I suppose.
Up next was stylish Chuka. He could have stepped off one of those highly detailed GQ fashion shoots (‘shirt: Brunello Cucinelli, jewellery: model’s own, etc’).
His suit was taut on his lithe frame and I wouldn’t be surprised, too, if something citrusy was spritzed around his closely shaved gills.
I don’t recall a great deal of what Chuka said, though there was lots of talk about combating the ‘forces of reaction’ – one of those odd, jargonesque phrases popularised by the Miliband brothers which don’t really penetrate much beyond the modish media Soho salons.
In this way he’s well suited to the Lib Dems, though my guess is it will all end in tears.
Berger’s a very different kettle of fish. Some of the vile sludge hurled at her online –and I dare say elsewhere – this past year really was quite unendurable
The most devastating testimony of the morning came from Luciana Berger, who – like Chuka – fled Labour earlier this year after her existence under Corbyn’s leadership became intolerable.
She described how she’d gone from being regarded as a Labour MP to a Jewish one.
Not only did some Labour colleagues shun her, but her attendance at her final party conference last year required her to be accompanied by armed guards.
She recalled supporting Labour all her life until ‘everything changed’ under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
I remembered Berger entering the Commons in 2010 as a sassy, outspoken go-getter.
But there was something mildly disturbing watching her yesterday, nervier and softer-spoken, her hands twitchy and permanently intertwined.
The Liberal Democrats have picked up eight defectors from the two main parties over this past year.
It’s hard to like a turncoat much less respect one.
But Berger’s a very different kettle of fish. Some of the vile sludge hurled at her online –and I dare say elsewhere – this past year really was quite unendurable.
The seven other big-name defectors the Lib Dems have picked up – the Chukas et al – I’m inclined to be more suspicious about.
Should the Lib Dems make the gains that they’re predicted to at this election, I’m inclined to think leader Jo Swinson may end up discovering that they’re more trouble than they were worth.
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