U.K. Heads to Polls for Election as Celebrities Urge People to Vote

Steve Coogan - Getty - H 2019
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Steve Coogan, Mark Ruffalo, Josh O'Connor, Hugh Grant, Stormzy, Rob Delaney and Olivia Colman are among the names to have campaigned for people to use their voice.

Voters across the U.K. on Thursday went to the polls in a general election that is being billed as an “historic” moment for Britain.

The final opinion polls have put current Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the Conservatives ahead of his Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn, but the numbers were tightening ahead of election day and a surge in youth vote is expected to benefit Labour. Several experts have suggested that a Conservative majority, widely expected just a few weeks ago, is no longer a certainty.

Johnson and the Conservatives had been campaigning to make the election almost solely about Brexit, arguing that only they could help “Get Brexit Done,” a mantra repeatedly endlessly during a six-week campaign. But Labour, who have pledged to hold a second referendum on leaving the European Union, have turned the conversation to social issues and public services, especially the National Health Service, which they have accused the Conservatives of looking to dismantle and sell off.

In the days leading up to the election, many names from the world of entertainment threw their voices into the mix, with most in support of Labour.

Musicians including Stormzy, MIA, Dua Lipa, Jade Thurwell of Little Mix, Emili Sande, Clean Bandit and Lily Allen were among those coming out in favour of Labour, with many penning long posts on social media (Stormzy wrote that Corbyn was the “first man in a position of power who is commited to giving power back to the people”). Meanwhile, Coldplay’s Chris Martin in an interview said that he would “probably vote Liberal Democrats,” referring to the center-right party who previously formed a coalition with the Conservatives.

From film and TV, Steve Coogan — an outspoken backer of Labour in the past — again voiced his support for the party, even joining canvassing efforts in marginal seats. In his own constituency, however, he told The Guardian that he would be breaking from his “traditional loyalty” for the first time and voting for the Liberal Democrat candidate, who is regarded as having the best chance of beating the Conservatives.

Others messaging their support for Labour have included Josh O’Connor, currently seen as Prince Charles on Netflix’s The Crown; Francis Lee, who directed O’Connor in his breakout God’s Own Country; Maxine Peake, the star of Black Mirror and Peterloo; author and comedian Ben Elton; Julie Christie; Mike Leigh; Mark Rylance; and Ken Loach. From outside the U.K., the party has been endorsed by the likes of Danny DeVito and Mark Ruffalo.

One of the loudest voices has been comedian and Catastrophe co-creator Rob Delaney, who posted a video declaring his support for Labour and love of the NHS that has been viewed more than 6.5 million times.

Elsewhere, Love Actually and Paddington 2 star Hugh Grant has been avidly campaigning for anyone but the Conservatives, turning up at several marginal seats and urging people to vote for whichever candidate is most likely to prevent Johnson from winning.

"I think it’s a national emergency and I think we’re staring into an abyss, and I thought, ‘What can I possibly do to make things better?'" the actor told BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday morning.

Grant was also part of a video compelling people to actually use their democratic voice and vote, which also included Oscar-winner Olivia Colman and Maze Runner star Kaya Scodelario. 

Polls will close at 10 p.m. U.K. time (2 p.m. PT), with the first results not expected until around midnight.