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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 08:29 GMT

Are you still here?

Election campaigns may make many people wish they could leave the country for the duration, but vowing to emigrate over the result could leave you with egg on your face, writes BBC News Online's Ryan Dilley.

"Why are you still here?" Probably not the greeting Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin was expecting when he attended a residents' meeting to discuss enlarging the golf course near his New York home.

One hundred days into the presidency of George Bush, the star has been frantically denying comments wife Kim Basinger made to a German magazine about his plan to leave the US if the Republican took the White House.

"My wife and I never said unequivocally that we would leave the country if Bush won. Never."

M*A*S*H director Robert Altman was also put on the back foot when the battle of the chads was finally decided in Dubya's favour - he had reportedly suggested France as his chosen exile destination.

Gay Paris, Texan style

"Here's what I really said. I said that if Bush gets elected, I'll move to Paris, Texas, because the state will be better off if he's out of it," said the movie veteran putting the record straight.

Pierre Salinger, the respected TV journalist and a former press secretary to President Kennedy, acted on his pledge and has left the US for a B&B in southern France.

Should Messers Baldwin and Altman plump for exile, there is always a place for them at Chez Salinger, it seems: "I don't know them very well, but if they come here they'll be very welcome."

The UK has its own batch of "Why are you still here?" celebrities. Magician Paul Daniels has been dogged by the question since failing to perform a disappearing act when Labour won the 1997 election.

Having vanished from British TV screens, the conjuror said he was tempted to "take the money and go", naming Barbados as his preferred haven from a Blair government.

Now-you-see-me

Daniels failed to take advantage of the removals van and the one-way airline ticket sent to his house by The People newspaper once the votes were counted.

Former heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno predicted the failure of Tory prime minister John Major to retain the keys to Number 10 would prompt "a lot of people like myself to emigrate".

When this exodus of canvas-hitting-pugilists-turned-panto-dames didn't materialise, Bruno revisited his threat.

"I'd never leave England, you know what I mean? Yes, I might get a holiday home here or there or whatever, but I would never, ever, ever leave England. Ever. I'd like to congratulate Tony Blair on winning the election, you know what I mean?"

At the same election, composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber refuted claims he would be competing with Daniels and Bruno for a cab to the airport, "unless forced to by punitive taxation".

Now-you-still-see-me

Conservative deputy PM Michael Heseltine interpreted these words as a portent of a "brain drain" to come if his party lost. Labour MP Tony Banks said he'd like to see the back of the Cats creator, "because that's the best view".

Actor Sir Michael Caine quit the UK because of Labour's tax policies of the 1970s. Coaxed back from Hollywood by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s, the star was reluctant to talk himself into another spell of exile in 1997.

"I had dinner with Tony Blair and he promised me personally that he wouldn't put tax up."

While no big name star (or even Paul "You know how much I dislike this Blair guy? Not a lot" Daniels) has promised to go come 8 June, Sir Michael's boomerang act is still the exception.

Despite his "Scotland forever" tattoo, a knighthood and devolution, Sir Sean Connery has decided to remain vague about his wish to return to the land of his birth.

"I'd like the independence movement to be further down the road before I'd go to Scotland to live again."

However, new laws almost left the Bahamas resident unable to further fund the Scottish National Party, forcing him to register as a UK voter once again.

"[The rules] treat me like a foreigner," fumed Sir Sean.

Shocking.


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