At a New York pub, the UK election is the main event
Posted June 9
British expats, vacationers and political geeks packed into the Churchill Tavern in midtown Manhattan on Thursday night to watch the results of Britain's general election roll in.
Only a handful had gathered when polls closed at 5 p.m. ET, a slight satellite delay meant that a Labour Party supporter sitting in the corner of the bar excitedly broke the news of the projected hung parliament 10 seconds before it flashed on the TV screens showing the BBC News channel.
As the work day came to a close, a small crowd grew to more than 100. It was the second time in one day that some bars in the US would be packed with politics, not sports, fans. The testimony of former FBI director James Comey before Congress drew crowds in DC bars earlier in the day.
Vacationers Deb and Neil Smith, from Birmingham, were among the first to arrive. The couple left England before polls opened on Thursday morning but cast a postal vote in advance.
Labour supporters who opposed Brexit, they were pleased by the exit poll and even more pleased they had already exchanged their sterling for dollars after watching the pound drop when when a hung parliament was projected.
"When May called the election it looked like it was going to be a landslide for the Conservatives," Deb said, "but it flipped during the campaign."
The Manchester and London terror attacks during the election campaign put a spotlight on May's time as home secretary when there were cuts to policing and stopped some people from voting for the Conservative, the couple believed.
Sporting a colorful Jeremy Corbyn T-shirt, Colin Kalmbacher didn't have a vote in Thursday's election. An attorney from Fort Worth, Texas, he volunteered for the Bernie Sanders campaign in New Hampshire and hopes America will take note of Labour's performance under Jeremy Corbyn.
"You don't have to hide who you are, Bernie," Kalmbacher said, enjoying a Guinness soon after the results of the exit poll were released. "Corbyn and Sanders have a lot in common," he added, "Both are former backbenchers. Both were written off by the establishment. Both were undercut by their own party. Both told they'd do no good in a general election."
Corbyn's solid performance -- at least projected by the exit poll -- should show Americans that an anti-establishment candidate on the left can do well in a general election, "hashtag Bernie would have won," Kalmbacher said.
Loud cheers every time a Labour candidate won a seat indicated that Tories were outnumbered in the Churchill Tavern.
"She'll have to resign," Rob Mackenzie-Smith, a Conservative voter, who has lived in New York for three years, said of Theresa May.
He voted in Thursday's election by proxy -- his mother casting his ballot back home.
"The EU must be laughing," he said of the exit poll, "this is perfect for them, they don't want us to leave." Despite being a Conservative supporter, Rob voted for the UK to remain in the European Union in last year's Brexit referendum, "I was very torn on Brexit, but decided to vote to stay because I knew the chaos it would cause if we left."
He blamed May's campaigning style for the Conservatives' projected loss of seats. "Corbyn showed himself to be a likable character in this campaign. May is smart but not a great campaigner, she's not great on TV and that hurt her."
An American in London
"It's in my personal interest to be against the Conservatives, they are anti-immigration," Bennett Golder, a Democrat from Atlanta, Georgia -- who has lived in London for six years -- told CNN.
On Thursday, he was in New York for work and while he was skeptical of the exit poll projection, he was happy it showed a strong performance for the Labour Party.
"I tend to support candidates I think are electorally viable," he said of his support for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in last year's Democratic primaries despite being ideologically more aligned with Sanders.
"I was never a big Corbyn supporter but was impressed by Labour's campaign and became a Corbyn believer," he said, "this election was a vanity project for Thesea May and it failed."
"It's good to see the forces of liberalism fighting back against populism," adding, "I want to have a government I can be proud of. Maybe there'll be one in the UK because with Trump and the Republicans there isn't one here."