LONDON, ENGLAND – Britons awoke Wednesday to headlines like the Daily Express' "A New World Dawns," and The Independent's "Mr. President" in bold print below a full-page picture of Barack Obama wearing a winning grin.
From all-night television coverage to special, late editions of the morning papers, not printed until most polls had closed, the U.S. election has eclipsed all national news here. Although Obama's win wasn't announced until 4 a.m. GMT, early morning commuters across the capital already knew the verdict from across the pond.
"It's fantastic news; great for the U.S., great for the world – just an absolute milestone in history," 41-year-old Londoner Jamie Davies said as he sipped a coffee from Starbucks before heading to work.
|Luke Macgregor / Reuters|
|Supporters celebrate as Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is announced President during an election party held at the U.S. Embassy in London, early Wednesday morning.|
Ahead of the election, four out of five British citizens said the outcome would make a difference to their country, according to a Gallup Poll taken in October. That figure was higher than from any other country polled.
"Everyone knows that whatever America faces, the world faces," said Evans Olekanma, a shopping center employee in Hammersmith, West London.
"Everybody is so happy because we really need a change," said Tasneem Islam, 27, as she sold copies of The Times newspaper, which featured Obama's face with the words "The New World."
"The economy is destroyed and we've been so frustrated, but now we can be hopeful with this great news," she said.
'He's not Bush'
Obama's theme of "change" was widely repeated.
"The biggest change is probably that he's not (President George W.) Bush, but also that he's the first person of color to get into the White House; it's a positive thing that may in some ways change things here in the future," said Michelle Hibbert.
The 31-year-old, who is black, added, "I don't think this country is ready for a black Prime Minister – not for a long time – but, maybe we can follow America's lead one day."
Highlighting the massive interest in the vote, U.K. broadcaster Sky News had overnight live reports from New York, Illinois, Arizona, Miami, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. It was "one of the biggest overseas operations Sky News has ever put on," the broadcaster's head John Ryley said in comments made before the big night.
Meantime, Londoners and American expats toasted their win or drowned their sorrows at a variety of venues – from typical American hang-outs like Planet Hollywood to quintessentially British pubs like The Hoop & Toy. Some even offered kitsch, if not downright rude, door prizes. In The East Room, a posh bar in the city's East end, Republican attendees received mock rifles and bibles, while Democrats got food stamps and tax bills.
While Republicans abroad attended election night parties, no GOP backers could be easily found Wednesday morning.
"I think Mr. Obama is a good man. ... but I don't think he has enough experience," Dimitri Horne, 43, said prior to the election.
"I think America needs a mature leader with a lot of experience, especially on foreign policy," said the John McCain supporter.
Race plays a role
Obama's victory, which was widely hoped for, according to numerous U.K. polls, was jubilantly cheered across the capital. Many, especially foreigners living here, cited race as a key factor for their optimism.
Nicolaas Erasmus, 29, a white South African who has lived here for five years, likened Obama's win to the election of Nelson Mandela in his home country.
"The biggest change will be to see that it doesn't really matter what color your skin is, or what your name is, or where you're from," he said, adding that Obama had proved that what counts is "what you want to build your future on and what you believe in."
Meantime, Patricia Keating said that "as an ethnic minority myself – I'm Irish in London – I'm very pleased and wish him every possible success."
Others just hoped he'd be different from President Bush.
"I hope he's not such an aggressive, war-mongering president, and I hope he means what he says when he says he's going to look after the middle classes," said Mark Foster, a 43-year-old IT consultant.
After finishing his morning coffee, Jamie Davies said: "He's inherited a very difficult presidency at a very difficult time, but I think he's the right man for the job."
"Well done America, you've restored my faith in you," he added.