US Embassy's election night party is hottest ticket in London town
As the results started to come in, the audience whooped and washed Big Macs down with bubbly
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Wednesday 07 November 2012
Elvis didn't say much. He mumbled something about Adlai Stevenson, flicked his hips, readjusted the shades and then vanished offstage.
Trying to get people to say how things are going on election night is no easy task in the supposedly neutral zone of the United States ziggurat in Grosvenor Square.
The US ambassador to the Court of St James, Louis Susman, who faced a diplomatic P45 if Obama lost, winked as he told the assembled glitterati of British politics that he didn't mind who won: "Rumour has it there's an election tonight. This is democracy in action, and I can assure everyone here that whoever wins, it won't affect the special relationship between our two countries..."
The audience, clutching champagne, Starbucks and Big Macs, whooped as though they'd watched a Superbowl touchdown. Elvis fist-pumped the air and Lady Liberty, the daughter of the deputy ambassador, waved her green torch.
The American embassy election night party is the hot ticket for US exiles in London. Expat lawyers and bankers transform the fortress into a Disney-style political theme park every four years, bringing Madison Square Garden to Mayfair.
The sponsors were out in force: chicken nuggets instead of canapes courtesy of a pop-up McDonald's concession; and other festivities paid for by Goldman Sachs and a popular carbonated beverage manufacturer.
Two Tory MPs confessed that they were keeping their fingers crossed for Barry. "We hope it'll still be President Obama when the champagne runs out," said one.
He was interrupted by a waitress wearing a flashing stars 'n' stripes pin badge. "This is the United States sir. We don't run out of champagne, not on election night, anyways."
Russell Watson sang "The Star-Spangled Banner". The shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna and former Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson tried to second-guess the result.
For the BBC, there were Andy Marr, Ian Hislop and, bizarrely, the former England cricketer Phil Tufnell, dressed in his whites. "Bit of a lark, eh?" he cried, waving a burger.
Plasma screens covered two floors of the embassy, tuned to the same rolling news coverage watched by countrymen across the Atlantic, who were packing watering holes near the Capitol building in their thousands.
By 1am, when CNN put Obama ahead in Ohio, and then forecast that the President would triumph in Florida, the cheers turned to a roar, but with other states too close to call it was time for a top-up...
Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax
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