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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 12:00 GMT
Election night at the embassy
For those who could not be in the US for the presidential election, London's American Embassy was one of the best places to watch the results come in.

After a light-hearted start to the party, the mood among the hundreds of expat and British guests turned increasingly serious as the new political map of the US was slowly drawn.

Elinor Shields was lucky enough to get an invite and charted the mood as the night went on.


The US embassy in London is packed with a mixture of Americans and Britons.

There are groups from Democrats Abroad UK, Republicans Abroad UK and a lot of US foreign correspondents.

Geoff Hoon and Uncle Sam
Geoff Hoon and Uncle Sam were spotted chatting at the embassy

There are a fair number of politicians here, including Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, and rumours that David Trimble, Douglas Hurd and Jeremy Greenstock have been spotted.

The mood is lively and the conversation light-hearted - a mixture of gossip and chat with some politics thrown in. They're obviously saving the ugly stuff for later on in the evening.

People are displaying their political colours and it seems there are a lot more John Kerry than Bush badges here.

There's an Uncle Sam character dressed up and wandering around, cardboard cut-outs of the presidential candidates and a lot of star spangled banner decorations.

The first polls have started to close and people are gathering around the big screens. It should all be kicking off soon.


"This election matters a great deal. I work with Americans - they're obviously very passionate about it and that spreads throughout the office.

"You realise how important it actually is, how the president of the United States has the most important job in the world and how it affects everybody else.

"If Europeans or anybody in the world could vote they would do so.

"I think it would be a great idea because it would certainly change things."


" I voted for Kerry. It's been four long years of seeing what George W has done to our country and it has been incredibly difficult seeing, quite frankly, his lack of grasp of the situation - of international situations - of, well, any situations.

Bush support
Democrats seemed to be in the majority, but Bush supporters were there

"I've had to sit back here and wait for this election to come up.

"Kerry wasn't my first choice by any stretch of the imagination. But I really see this as a mandate against Bush. So I'm voting to get Bush out of office.

"It's incredibly difficult to not be in the US for the election. To not be with friends and family and people who feel the same way that you do.

"But at the same time, it's a little bit exciting because I feel like the community here is so overwhelmingly pro-Kerry that you're really truly among people who think the same way as you do.

"Here tonight you don't find a lot of Bush supporters. I know people that support Bush, friends that support Bush but for the most part you can walk around the US Embassy - which is supposed to be a party open to all - and I'd say it's is pretty overwhelmingly Kerry."


This is a curious party, with people avoiding the subject of the election.

I've had my photo taken with a cardboard Kerry, eaten lots of mini hamburgers and stared at a collection of 9/11 covers from British newspapers, but few people want to talk politics.

George W Bush and John Kerry figures
Cardboard cut-outs of the candidates didn't see eye to eye

An American friend suggests this is largely to do with the fact that people are so nervous.

It certainly seems to be reflected in the way people are responding to the media.

People are gathering around the various news screens. We've got one screen to reflect each American network but people, in general, are skirting around the screens.

A fair amount of alcohol is being consumed and a lot of crisps but not much politics - which is interesting. Maybe it'll heat up in a couple of hours.


The mood has changed. The crowd has thinned and is a lot more focused.

The remaining people - and there's still a couple of hundred here - are digging for the fight.

People are craning towards the screens, following the results coming through. There is a hush.

Journalists are opening up their laptops, starting to type up reports and the election chat is becoming more focused on the topic IN hand.

There's still a strong Democrat turnout here and they're now starting to look a lot more sober - it's still tight.


"I'm a little tired and maybe a little frustrated that so many things are still up in the air right now.

"I think we knew going in that this was going to take a while to figure out because it did last time.

Loyd Grossman with the cardboard candidates
Loyd Grossman puts his hands on the shoulders of history

"I live in Washington DC, so I'm used to being if not an insider at least around a lot of other insiders and watching it from here is a bit like watching a basketball game with the sound off.

"You see the players, you see the action, you see the score but you don't get any of the nuance and analysis that you might get if you were really back home.

"That's not just from reading the press but actually talking to colleagues and gathering information from several different sources.

"Here you get it from a decidedly international perspective which, for better or worse, is not the perspective that most Americans bring to the electoral process.

"I'm a Red Sox fan and I'm a John Kerry fan - made in Massachusetts."


The crowd continues to thin.

Many people have left, flagging and gloomy about the prospects for Kerry.

The hardcore contingent still form a fair crowd, but the mood is much more sombre, much more focused.


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