LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 2 – A sense of kinship has emerged between British eurosceptics and Donald Trump supporters who are united in their efforts to unseat and shock the establishment, despite being separated by an ocean.
The self-declared “biggest fan of Trump in the UK” is a 46-year-old IT professional, who goes by the initials CT. He also voted for Britain to leave the European Union in the country’s June 23 referendum — “for independence”, he tells AFP.
Preferring to remain anonymous, CT is convinced the Republican will win. To show his support he runs the @UKforTrump Twitter account, although it has only attracted several hundred followers.
Finding someone who will openly identify as a Trump supporter in the UK is no easy task.
When Channel 4 organised a TV debate on the presidential election, “they literary flew someone over” from the US to give the pro-Trump perspective, according to Brian Klaas, one of the guests and a specialist in US politics at the London School of Economics.
Britain is also where some of the strongest opposition has been voiced to the American billionaire’s policy proposal to ban Muslims from the US.
Foreign minister Boris Johnson, one of those who championed Brexit, said he would stay away from certain New York neighbourhoods to avoid the risk of bumping into Trump.
Admirers of Hillary Clinton’s rival are most likely found within the ranks of the anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP), a key driving force behind Brexit.
Invigorated by the vote, UKIP’s co-founder and interim leader Nigel Farage has been spending ample time in the US recently, warming up the crowds at Trump rallies.
“The parallels are there,” Farage told Trump supporters as he recalled his UK referendum success.
He believes American voters are also facing a historic opportunity to “beat the pollsters, the commentators and Washington”.
It is of little importance that few in the US have heard of Farage.
“Trump was drawn to the fact that Farage beat the odds and beat the establishment. He wanted to sort of bring that magic, as it were, to his campaign,” he said.
From Rochdale to the Rust Belt
Although Trump and Farage are addressing different electorates, Klaas said they appeal to the same voters: “white men without college degrees.”
Those left behind by globalisation, whether they live in post-industrial areas of northern England and Wales or in the American “Rust Belt”, are drawn to the politics and polemic rhetoric of Farage and Trump.
“They are both tapping into this global moment of fear, not just economic fear but also fear of terrorism and extremism,” said Klaas.
Jon Stanley, a commentator for the right-leaning think tank The Bow Group, agreed there are parallels between the two supporter groups.
“There are effectively three things: anti-globalisation, anti-uncontrolled immigration, and anti-establishment,” he told AFP.
‘Trump will win’
Within UKIP, many are convinced Trump can repeat the shock outcome of the British referendum, when experts and pollsters were proven wrong, and beat Clinton to the presidency.
“I do believe that Donald Trump will win,” said David Coburn, an MEP representing UKIP.
Speaking to Business Insider UK, Coburn said his party has in many ways “helped start a revolution in the United States”.
The British party’s chief financier, millionaire Aaron Banks, likened Trump supporters to anti-EU voters in the UK and said they were “much more motivated” than their rivals.
But not all UKIP members have been charmed by Trump, with two of the party’s MEPs openly criticising Farage for backing the bombastic billionaire.
“Trump’s sexist and derogatory comments have unequivocally proven he is totally unfit to be president of the United States, and Nigel Farage should think very carefully about defending him,” said MEP Jane Collins.
UKIP member Pete Durnell, an unsuccessful candidate in last year’s election, also distanced himself from Farage’s US strategy.
“Trump has made some really stupid and very offensive comments about Mexicans, Syrians, certain women, war veterans,” he told AFP.
While Trump critics remain vocal, his backers often prefer to remain discreet after being vilified in the press and by the elite. That is until they head to the polls, en masse, aiming to prompt another political earthquake.