Sad Scenes From a US Embassy Election Party
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Sad Scenes From a US Embassy Election Party

The mood at the beginning of the night was hopeful. By the end, not so much.
November 10, 2016, 12:00am

The booze had been cut off, the burgers were gone and the Ambassador had scurried off home. It was election night at the American Embassy and Donald Trump was heading for near certain victory. A tiny, isolated band of his supporters whooped and cheered. Everyone else looked grim.

Welcome to the party at the end of the world. Not much of a party. Not much of a world.

It all started off so well. America's London outpost looked as festive as it's possible for a bomb shelter to be: projections of star-spangled banners flickered over its missile-proof exterior; inside, the red, white and blue balloons of freedom bobbed gently around.

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"We're just looking forward to celebrating our democracy!" a member of staff trilled happily as we arrived.

For a few sweet, innocent hours, that's exactly what we did. All the glories of the American empire were on display: coffee by Starbucks, bourbon by Jack Daniels, burgers by Shake Shack. With photographer Chris Bethell imprisoned in the media centre, my task was to elbow my way out into the throng and lure minor celebrities into his silky blue lair.

Which is how Simon Hanson, the drummer from Squeeze, came to perform this impromptu Trump impersonation. He seemed confident of a Clinton win and generally happy to be alive. Of course, he'll be laughing out of the other side of his skull when Trump rolls out firing squads for those who dare mock the dignity of high office.

Philip Stephens and Rachel Johnson

Everyone seemed certain Clinton would breeze it. "He's not going to win. He's just not!" said author Rachel Johnson. "Clinton's going to get 323 Electoral College votes," said Philip Stephens, the Financial Times' chief political commentator. "And I've just bet my house on that."

It's easy to mock now, but back in the golden age of 11PM last night, the future seemed bright. Or at least slightly less clouded by thundering shit storms than it does today. There were lucky omens: this gun-owning Texas cowboy for Clinton, for instance.

"I have a rifle, a shotgun and a pistol," he drawled. "In Texas, it's virtually illegal not to own a gun. There's a reason for it. We've got critters."

Much has been made of Trump's militia stockpiling assault rifles and ammunition in the event of a Hilary steal. But little has been said about armed democrats. Would this cowboy take up arms against the president-elect?

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"It could get ugly either way," he said. "This is completely off script. We've never seen anything like this. If Trump wins, I may just stay over here for a while."

Next in front of Chris' camera was comedy tax-dodger Jimmy Carr.

"I don't think we will ever see a more entertaining election," he said. "It's been extraordinary to watch. If you are interested in politics, tonight is the FA Cup final and we are in Wembley for it. It has been the most entertaining election ever… It doesn't matter who wins. Either way, we are going to have a cunt in the White House."

And then Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. For some reason he refused to hold the democracy-sized freedom balloon we thrust at him and ran away as fast as he could as soon as he recovered from the camera's blinding flash.

Finally, around midnight, the Ambassador made his speech. Matthew Barzun is a jolly little man and a fine speech-maker – the special relationship will go on, Churchill, etc – but nobody within eyeshot of a television screen was really listening properly because, horrifyingly, Trump had pulled into an early lead.

How could it be possible? After everything he's said and done? It was time for answers; I needed to catch up with some Trumpites.

However, by the time I found one willing to go on the record, the electoral map had shifted. The Trump supporters in the embassy's CNN Cinema, who had previously been gloating about "winning, and winning BIGLY", had become silent and sad.

Alex here was putting on a brave face, but he'd resigned himself to failure.

"I think it's over," he said. "Nothing can win it for Trump now. I was hitting the booze before, but now… He gambled and he lost."

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Finally we can could wash our hands of this dirty election. This cycle has been so toxic, so foul, so utterly putrescent that it's actually made the American people sick; psychotherapists have reported huge increases in psychosomatic disorders: nausea, vomiting, and bouts of depression.

So it was a relief when Chris promised to wake me up when Clinton made it over the hill. "We just need to get that victory shot, then we can get out of here," he said.

But as I dozed, everything changed. It turned out Hillary wasn't winning after all. In fact, she was losing. Up on the screens, a red rash spread across the nation. Republicans started to perform little victory jigs for the cameras. Political pundits in the media zone were privately calling it for Trump.

Nobody with any hope for the future of the free world was happy, least of all me. Trump was going to win and, just when we needed it most, the booze had been cut off. Here we were, waiting around in what is soon to become the London embassy of the world's newest fascist super-state, and all they were handing out was orange juice and breakfast bars. I hate America.

And then it was over. Not the election – that seemed to be dragging on and on – but the party; the embassy staff had finally had enough. They turfed us out into the cold, rainy, dark pre-dawn without umbrellas or answers.

By the time I got home and dry, the world had definitively become a more terrifying, hateful place.

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