Trump and Brexit

It's wise to be cautious when it comes to making sweeping international comparisons but the Brexit connection with Donald Trump's victory is too tempting to ignore.

It is partly because Trump himself kept on talking about Brexit in the campaign, and it is partly a reflection of the reality.

I lost count of the number of people who I interviewed at a major business exhibition in the centre of Cardiff who told me that waking up after the US result felt like waking up after Brexit.

And there were echoes of the old divisions resurfacing as well.

I have spoken to people who felt physically sick when the results came in from the States, and I have spoken to people who were punching the air on their way into work.

Rust belt

The obvious point of comparison is that Donald Trump had huge appeal for blue-collar workers in the rust belt, the former industrial areas in the north-east of the US.

For rust belt, see the south Wales valleys in the referendum campaign when Brexit campaigners generated enormous support in another former industrial area on the other side of the Atlantic.

An anti-establishment message among many communities can generate traction which the conventional parties, and the conventional political messaging, struggles to deal with.

There has been, and there will be, millions of column inches devoted to working out how and why this is the case, but it goes without saying that the challenge for all of the main parties is learning to live with such competition.

A few more thoughts: while I was filming for Wales Today at the business conference there was a striking gender split. Most of the women I spoke to were openly critical of him while the men were far more likely to approach Trump with an open mind.


Two other comments struck home as well. A UKIP member in Wales told a colleague that he hoped 2016 would never come to an end. In other words, it is the gift that keeps on giving.

And I bumped into a bleary-eyed party advisor in a lift at the assembly in Cardiff Bay who told me he felt he didn't understand politics any more, such was the significance of the Trump victory.

I suspect there are many who feel the same way.

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