HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
In advanced democracies, political earthquakes - genuine moments that shake the prevailing order and unleash significant change - are very rare. In my lifetime the rejection of the previous policies which heralded the elections of Margaret Thatcher here and Ronald Reagan in the United States counts; perhaps too the New Labour landslide of 1997 which its cheerleaders portended as a new dawn for liberalism, a claim that looks as absurd now as it was hyperbolic then.
Donald Trump’s extraordinary victory over Hillary Clinton last week was such an example of a political tremor. Many saw little virtue in either candidate or their respective pitch for the role of leader of the free world, but the American people chose a fundamental rejection of the political orthodoxy by entrusting the Presidency to someone with no history of public service who claimed he wants a clean break from ‘business as usual’.
It’s hard to predict where such a radical change of direction will lead America, let alone the rest of the world. Certainly Trump’s bombast and vulgarity are unedifying and very hard to square with English sensibilities, but perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to despair. Mr Trump’s acceptance speech showed him in a more gracious aspect, and back in 1980 many mocked fellow outsider Ronald Reagan for his homespun ways and early big screen career - but he went on to restore prosperity, helped to end the Cold War and was a true friend to the United Kingdom. For conservatives, understandably, he is a hero.
Donald Trump frequently compared his campaign to that of Brexit, but we should be cautious about drawing too many parallels. Our vote to leave the EU was about restoring national sovereignty; Trump’s triumph seems more of a reaction to the political cabal that many Americans felt had held onto power for too long. Given the expectations that he’s fuelled, it remains to be seen whether Mr Trump is capable of rising to the challenge he now faces.
What the two results do have in common is a rejection of the liberal establishment and its values. Trump’s win, despite the efforts of much big business and most of the media – and to the surprise of the pollsters, who once again got it wrong - shows that people are fed up with a patronising liberal elite who have little understanding of, or empathy for, the concerns of the “forgotten people” that he so often speaks about.
Last week’s result was unexpected and will be unpopular with some. Regardless, America is, and will remain, our strongest ally, and the world’s great superpower in terms of economic and military might. Ronald Reagan memorably called the United States a “shining city upon the hill”; it’s time to borrow a bit of his optimism and hope.