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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 12:33 GMT
Exiles from Main Street
By Melissa Jackson
BBC News Magazine

Robert Redford
Idle talk? Robert Redford says he wants to move to Ireland
Just as Paul Daniels and Frank Bruno once threatened to quit the UK if Labour got in, many Americans warned they would flee abroad if George Bush was re-elected. So will they honour their promises?

In the run up to the US presidential election last week, Hollywood veteran Robert Redford was asked what he would do were George W Bush to be reinstalled in the White House for four more years.

"I'll probably be in England, no Ireland," said Redford. Visiting or living asked the BBC reporter? "Living," replied the Oscar-winning actor.

Whether Redford was sincere or not remains to be seen, but he was not alone in considering such drastic action in light of a Bush victory.

The BBC News website received several e-mails from Democrats and other anti-Bush activists threatening, in varying tones of seriousness, to quit their homeland if George Bush was to win again. A few even mentioned moving to the UK.

Of course, in the cold light of day these sort of threats have a habit of coming to nothing. But there are signs that some, at least, seem determined to see it through.

Brian Boyko
Student Brian Boyko has lost faith in America
Brian Boyko, a 25-year-old postgraduate journalism student, says he is serious about moving to Britain in light of Wednesday's result. Mr Boyko, who actually voted for Mr Bush in 2000, says he fears Mr Bush's policies and his right to govern are based on faith over reason.

"I think this election was our last, best chance of changing the direction the country is headed in," he says.

Mr Boyko, a student of the University of Texas, feels more Americans will leave the country once Bush's policies really start to bite.

"I think it'll probably start with gay people and Muslim Americans, those likely to be the scapegoats. Something is rotten here. I'm just smelling it earlier than some other people."

"Even though I voted for the other guy, I'm still going to have my nationality associated with the death and destruction the next four years will bring, and I'd rather not. So I'm looking to reject this society and find another one."

He plans to leave the US after he completes his degree in May.

North or south?

While Mr Boyko is keen on Britain, Canada seems a more realistic option for others. The day after the election result last week, Immigration Canada's website set a new one-day record for visits, with more than 179,000 hits - 64% of which originated in the US.

I love my country and am proud to be an American, but I don't think I have ever been as down about this country as I am now
Prof Ian Mitroff
A tongue-in-cheek website - marryanamerican.ca - urges single Canadians to offer themselves as spouses to disillusioned Americans, thereby easing all those visa headaches.

The site begs readers to "rescue a progressive American from four more years of George W Bush".

A joke perhaps, but Ian Mitroff, 66, a professor at the University of Southern California, is deadly serious about considering whether to head north. But he's not ready just yet, he says.

"I'm in an immense quandary about what to do," says Mr Mitroff. "Another pointless war would make me go or if gay bashing and bashing of liberals gets so serious that tolerance is broken down, you would feel in fear of your safety.

"I love my country and am proud to be an American, but I don't think I have ever been as down about this country as I am now."

Tracking inquiries

He says a friend at a university in Canada anticipates there being a flood of applications from US professors.

President George W Bush
George Bush: Uniting or dividing the country?
Lawyer Peggy Bowen, 57, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is planning to head in the other direction - south. Although she had always wanted to retire in Mexico, she says Mr Bush's second term may hasten that departure. She views her options in remarkably stark terms.

"Freud stayed in Vienna until Hitler had completely taken over the country, but I don't want to be wrong about when it's time to leave. My fear is that I won't know when to get out."

The indicators are subtle and not altogether clear. The British embassy in Washington says there has been no increase in inquiries from Americans wanting to up sticks and cross the Atlantic. But at the US website Live Abroad, which links up American ex-pats, "past, present and future" staff have noticed an increase in traffic visiting the site in the days after the election.

"People are linking to the site and then clicking on one of the ads from Google for studying or retiring overseas," says website editor Ruth Halcomb.

"At our local hospital, nurses are saying 'where can we go'? I think it has everything to do with the election."


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