Holiday rom-com ‘Love, Actually’ inspires UK election memes

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In this photo dated Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, British actor Hugh Grant poses for a photo with Liberal Democrats Party election candidate Monica Harding, during an election campaign visit in the Esher and Walton constituency, Walton-on-Thames, England. Hugh Grant has been on the campaign trail with the Liberal Democrats to stop Britain’s Brexit from Europe and urging voters to kick Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of office when Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

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LONDON (AP) — “Love, Actually” is all around this year in Britain’s pre-Christmas election.

The 2003 romantic comedy about the love lives of assorted Londoners over the holiday season has played a surprisingly large role in the campaign for Thursday’s general election. It has inspired political ads from both Labour and the Conservatives, and “Love, Actually” star Hugh Grant has been out on the campaign trail urging voters to oust Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson’s Conservatives flooded social media Tuesday with an ad parodying the “Love, Actually” scene in which Mark (Andrew Lincoln) stands at the door of secret crush Juliet (Keira Knightley), professing his love on a series of cue cards while her new husband sits obliviously inside.

In the political ad, Johnson stands on the threshold of a voter’s home, promising that if she votes Conservative “by this time next year, we’ll have Brexit done … and we can move on.” The ad ends with an entreaty to “Vote Conservative actually.”

Johnson says he will lead Britain out of the European Union by the scheduled Jan. 31 deadline if he wins Thursday’s election.

Opposition Labour candidate Rosena Allin-Khan accused the Conservatives of ripping off her own similar “Love, Actually” spoof, posted several weeks ago, in which she persuades a Conservative voter to change his mind.

The Conservative ad also sparked a flood of parodies, with rival parties and social media users replacing the writing on Johnson’s cards with less flattering slogans. Party campaigners probably won’t mind: The Conservative’s digital strategy throughout the campaign has been to get supporters and detractors alike talking about the party.

Former Justice Secretary David Gauke, who was expelled by Johnson for opposing his Brexit plan and is running Thursday as an independent, tweeted a photo of himself holding a card with the words “Brexit won’t get done, actually.”

For many Britons, “Love, Actually” has become a holiday season TV staple and a guilty pleasure. Some film fans cringe at its saccharine elements, like the adorable child, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who is helped by stepdad Liam Neeson to woo a classmate. But just as many cherish the scene in which Grant, as a boyish British prime minister, berates a boorish U.S. president played by Billy Bob Thornton.

That role helped make Grant a liberal heartthrob, and he has become increasingly political in real life, campaigning against press intrusion and the hacking of celebrities.

In this election, Grant has gone out on the campaign trail with non-Conservative candidates, urging electors to vote tactically to kick Johnson’s party out of office.

Grant conceded that the Conservative ad was “quite well done, very high production values.”

“But I did notice that one of the cards from the original film that he (Johnson) didn’t hold up is the one where Andrew Lincoln held up a card saying ‘because of Christmas you tell the truth,’“ Grant told the BBC. “And 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.”

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