Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
In political terms, 2016 is turning out to be every bit as important, in historical terms, as 1968. In Britain and America, a revolution has happened – and it is one that few saw coming.
Yet again, it wasn’t just a political party or cause that was defeated in the United States: it was the political classes themselves, especially the pollsters and pundits. Yet again they got it catastrophically wrong. Even the betting markets called it wrong, and William Hill is now saying it may pull out of political betting because it is too risky.
I wonder if some polling firms may also decide to stop political polling. They make no money out of it, and in normal times they do it to get their names in the newspapers. As they did this time – for all the wrong reasons.
So how did we get it so wrong – and I include myself in that. From my own point of view, I just couldn’t take Trump seriously as a candidate. With every passing day, he’d make an even more ludicrous and extreme speech. He’d make a fool of himself. He’d say something hateful, nasty and divisive.
But what we all failed to see was that his message wasn’t just one of hate; it was a message of hope to a group of Americans who have become economically disenfranchised. To white, working class, blue collar Americans, many of whom had lost their jobs or seen their wages depressed over the last 20 years, he represents hope. Somehow, they don’t see him as part of the establishment, even though he patently is.
He has never held office and has never been part of the Washington establishment, and that was good enough for many voters. They lapped up Trump’s xenophobia because it reflected their own. They blame Mexicans for taking their jobs. Even Trump’s “grab pussy” comments were discounted as just the sort of locker-room banter that is part of everyday banter on the factory floor.
Trump was immune to infections that kill of other politician’s careers, and the media classes failed to understand why. He got more black votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012. He got more Latino voters. He got more young voters. Who’d have thought. Among whites with no degree Clinton only got 28 per cent. Trump got 67 per cent, and that’s why he won many of the swing states, especially in the so-called Rust Belt.
So, what should we in Britain make of it? Many will see Trump as a threat, not an opportunity. They are wrong. To quote Alastair Campbell’s comments to Sir Christopher Meyer in 2000, when the UK Ambassador asked what his role should be vis-a-vis the then new President, George W Bush, he was told: “Get up the arse of the White House and stay there.”
The Germans and French have been very lukewarm in their welcome for President-Elect Trump – Theresa May, the opposite. She’s right to embrace him. He will move Britain to the front of the queue in terms of a free trade agreement. He may be a protectionist, but it is clear that he is an admirer of this country and a huge fan of Brexit. I suspect Liam Fox is already planning his next visit to Washington DC.
William Dartmouth, the UKIP MEP, has suggested Nigel Farage be appointed to Washington. I suspect that might be one step too far – though there are claims today that he will be an unofficial emissary – but it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Trump appointed Farage to some sort of advisory role. On my LBC election night show, he suggested he might like to be Trump’s Envoy to Brussels. And I suspect he was only half joking.
Mario Cuomo once said that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. In Trump’s case, he is now no more than the Apprentice. Let’s hope he can learn on the job.
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Over 27 hours on Tuesday to Wednesday, I presented 13 hours of programming. I admit that by the time I came off air at 7pm on Wednesday my brain could hardly string a sentence together – but if you can’t enjoy yourself and cope with the pressures in these circumstances, you shouldn’t be doing the job.
Obviously I didn’t listen to the competition on the BBC, as I was behind the microphone, but I’ve been told that we did a brilliant job in explaining what was going on and informing our audience in an accessible way. Clearly, we don’t have the resources of the BBC, but sometimes it’s precisely because you’ve got those resources you tend to overcomplicate things. This is especially true on TV, where some of the graphics and computer wizardry can look incredibly impressive, but to the viewer can be incomprehensible none the less. On radio, we felt that we just needed to tell our audience what was happening and why. And hopefully we achieved that.
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Quite what Trump’s election will mean for the rest of the world is anyone’s guess. The fear is that he will play to the isolationist gallery and withdraw from America’s traditional role in world politics. We can take as read that NATO will change. American funding is likely to decrease, which will mean that European members will have to contribute more.
Meanwhile, policy towards Russia will be very different to Obama’s. Don’t bet against Putin being one of the first world leaders to meet Trump. The big unknown is how he will change America’s policy in the Middle East. The Israelis will be cheering Trump to the rafters, having finally seen the back of Obama, a man Netanyahu doesn’t get along with. But what Trump will do about ISIS, who knows?
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Many of us look upon Trump with undisguised horror and contempt. But for those of us in the media world, we ought to be very excited. Trump is going to give us four years of wonderful copy. God Bless America.