LGBT advocates in Great Britain are nervously watching as America picks its 45th president. With President Obama extremely popular “across the Pond,” will Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump continue to improve the trans-Atlantic relationship, or will we see a return to the “Dubya” years?
“Ah Obama. He’s great isn’t he? Makes everyone jealous of their own leaders,” said Adam Beral, a trustee for a U.K. LGBT helpline, “I think he’s moved our relationship into a more professional sphere — very different to the pally ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ of Blair and Bush.”
“We’re also a lot less slavish to America now,” added David Ward, a young leader for Stonewall, a U.K. LGBT charity.
Trump has already clashed with London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, when he said he would block Muslims from entering the U.S. Kahn, the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city, was quick to point out the ban would include him, and was less than impressed with Trump’s promise of “exceptions.”
“This isn’t just about me — it’s about my friends, my family and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world,” the mayor said in a statement.
Recently, while touring North America, Kahn accused Trump of “playing into the hands of Daesh and so-called ISIS.”
“As someone in Sadiq’s very diverse former constituency and who voted for him, I was angry about what Trump said and think all he’s doing is causing a divided States with a warped perception of our country,” said Ward, referring to Trump’s false claims “Islamification” had created no-go zones in England.
Beral also took these comments personally.
“His attitude to the mayor of London – my mayor – is hardly surprising,” he said. “What is surprising is that someone who airs such views publicly is competing for the top job in America. It makes us over here wonder what the fuck is going on in your country!”
Many other Brits are concerned by Trump’s bigoted views.
Louise, a bisexual woman working in the charity sector, is “terrified” at the thought of a Trump presidency.
“I think it will mean a massive upsurge in hate crimes as people will take his victory as legitimizing ugly beliefs,” she said.
“The worst thing is that he’s making a political success out of it. Politicians around the world must be looking at him and thinking: I can do that,” worries Vicki, a trans woman who lives in London, “If the U.S. starts eliminating LGBT rights, other countries will think it’s OK to do the same.”
The British public, however, seems firmly against Trump, branding his comments about minorities as hate speech, with 586,933 people signing a petition to have him banned from the United Kingdom. Members of Parliament debated this on Jan. 18, with the reality television star and his policies mocked through various British colloquialisms, including “wazzock,” “bonkers” and “buffoon.”
But even Democrat Hillary Clinton, with her positive human rights record, has hardly overwhelmed the British public.
“Hillary seems nice but there’s just something about her, I don’t see her being a strong figure head,” said London resident Pete Spake.
Beral shared a similar sentiment.
“I’m not a fan of either of them to be honest. I have a huge amount of respect for Clinton insomuch as I think she’s an excellent politician, but I disagree with many of her views,” he said.
Ward feels the same.
“The fact that she still advocates for the death penalty was a shocker,” he said.
Though Louise said Clinton is “definitely the best choice for America right now,” she’s not sure she’s the candidate for her.
“I admire quite a lot about Hillary, although my politics are to the left of hers,” she said.
Even though Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson once described Clinton as a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,” it’s clear many in Britain have their fingers crossed for a Clinton win. Spake, however, said that whatever the outcome, Obama’s hard work will be wasted.
“I don’t think that [Prime Minister Theresa] May will get along with either [candidate,] which is a shame,” he said.
Though it is unlikely that British opinion will have any effect on the election, some say the results of the recent E.U. referendum should act as a warning. Cornelius Sealey, an American living and working in London during the Brexit vote, is determined his country won’t make the same mistake.
“I continue to tell my friends back in the States to learn from the Brexit vote. People never thought it could happen, didn’t turn out to vote and it passed,” he said.
“It’s kinda scary that a candidate like Trump is doing so well,” concluded Ward. “But as we have seen over here with our EU referendum, sometimes the worst outcome can happen. Learn from us!”