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UK Eyes Election in Its Former Colonies

James Marlow, London

Never has the UK been so fascinated with the American election

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

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Nigel Farage, the Brexit hero, sees many parallels between that vote and the rise of Donald Trump (Photos: AFP/Imagebank)

A cross the Atlantic, Britain’s voters are watching the American presidential election closely, with many seeing parallels between the rise of Trump and the recent Brexit result.

To wit, on the day of last June’s referendum, which asked voters to choose whether Britain should stay in the European Union, a respected pollster put the “remain” side ten points ahead. But on voting day, the “leave” side won easily with 52% support. Could Trump score the same kind of unexpected victory?

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party who was instrumental in encouraging Britain to leave the EU, believes the same social factors that produced the Brexit vote are now operating in the United States.

Speaking on his LBC Radio phone-in show, Farage said the American people see Trump “as being the big fight back against an establishment that had got too rich, too powerful, and was ignoring their views. I’ve thought that whatever the opinion polls say may well be wrong.”

In fact, never has the UK been so fascinated with the American election. All three of the British news networks covered the presidential debates live and replayed the broadcasts throughout the day. Predictably, the liberal BBC and ITV networks poked fun at Trump, like their American counterparts. In England’s Orthodox Jewish community, many voters say that Trump would be more supportive of Israel than Clinton and would be tougher on Iran. Immigration is also a concern for Britain’s Orthodox Jews, since thousands of Muslim refugees have arrived in Britain because of the Syrian civil war.

Maajid Nawaz: “All polls are telling us that Hillary is going to win but when we do this ‘talking to people’ thing, many say they feel Trump will win”

British blogger David Collier, who specializes in the Middle East, suggests that current British prime minister Theresa May would prefer to work with Trump. “Given the current climate, I think she will probably be more comfortable with a Donald Trump–style character within the White House” he said, although he did admit it would be difficult for her to admit that publicly.

Maajid Nawaz, a British-born Pakistani who is founder of the counter-extremist think tank Quilliam, said he too believes the US election might end in a surprise. For evidence, like Farage, he points to the Brexit vote. “If you did a common person test to gauge the opinion of people on the streets of the UK, everyone was telling you they were against leaving the EU,” he said. “All polls are telling us that Hillary is going to win. But when we do this ‘talking to people’ thing, many say they feel Trump will win.”

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