Don’t write Donald Trump off just yet, says James Naughtie

The former Today programme presenter thinks a Trump victory is not out of the question

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The polls may favour Hillary Clinton after a disastrous week for Donald Trump, but former Today programme presenter James Naughtie has warned the public not to dismiss the US Republican presidential candidate before the votes are counted.

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Naughtie, who was a stalwart of BBC Radio’s election night broadcasts, has been burned before.

“There is a trend in the polls which suggests very strongly that Clinton is now in a significant lead across the country,” he told an audience at Cheltenham Literature Festival.

“However. Those of us who went on the air at 10 o’clock on the 23rd of June, having heard that Mr Farage had predicted – I think on emerging from premises that may have been licensed – that he had probably lost…”

Most people (including journalists, politicians and pundits) on the night of the European Union referendum had misread the polls and were shocked to wake up to news of an ‘out’ vote the next morning, Naughtie said – so people should beware of calling the US election result before the ballots are in.

“The election is three weeks next Tuesday, so I’m not predicting who’ll win,” explained Naughtie. “His campaign is in trouble, but they used to say that most people didn’t decide how to vote until the end of the World Series.

“All I would say is the World Series hasn’t started yet.”

The veteran broadcaster, who stepped down as a presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last year after over two decades on the job, added: “All the odds are that he’s not going to win. But I’m the last person who will predict that.” 

Even without a Trump victory, Naughtie is still worried by the sinister way the businessman-turned-politician’s team have been behaving.

“I think that there is a great deal of concern that if the vote goes against Trump… he might argue, with his kind of street army, that ‘it’s been rigged, she’s been fixed, and Putin is right, it’s a democracy that’s broken, and we’ve got to continue to fight the legitimacy of the result’,” he suggested.

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“If you get into that kind of atmosphere, which of course would be easy to stoke up given the unquestioned unpopularity of Clinton as a candidate among many, you could have a really quite ugly political atmosphere in the States.”