Obama: It's wham bam and thank you ma'am
By Peter McKay
Last updated at 11:30 AM on 23rd May 2011
Accompanied by an entourage of 1,500 — from chefs to sharp-shooters — President Barack Obama is due in London tomorrow for a two-day state visit. Security alone is said to be costing £10 million.
Obama will address the Lords and Commons. The Queen will give him a banquet at Buckingham Palace.
No 10’s chatelaine, Samantha Cameron, and First Lady Michelle Obama will co-host a barbecue — weather permitting.
President Barack Obama's visit to Britain is estimated to cost in the region of £10m
What’s it all for? Usually, the outcomes of these visits — the justification for them — are fixed in advance. So what might we expect to hear before Obama leaves on Thursday for France, his next port of call.
According to U.S. elder statesman Henry Kissinger, Britain’s leading role in the Libya action has improved Obama’s opinion of David Cameron. Obama arrives here ‘with a more positive attitude of restoring the high degree of confidentiality and trust that existed previously’.
So what can we get out of it? We’d prefer the U.S. to play a more positive role in the military action against Gaddafi — not leave it to the U.S.’s partners in Nato.
We’ve stretched the UN resolution justifying our military action against Gaddafi almost to breaking point, and he’s still there. We need America’s help to finish him off.
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But Obama has just assured Americans — in a letter to Congress — that the U.S. has ‘limited’ objectives in Libya. Meaning, he won’t help us much more than he’s already doing.
Our side complains that the effectiveness of our campaign against Gaddafi is hampered by a lack of U.S. leadership. According to one news report yesterday, U.S. diplomats respond by saying Britain is ‘a skittish and unpredictable ally’.
Doesn’t exactly sound as if the high degree of trust and confidentiality that existed between us previously is fully restored, does it? Americans seem to have learned more than we have in Iraq and Afghanistan — that it’s easier invading a country than organising a fair system of government there afterwards.
They took one look at fractured, tribal Libya — home to many of their Al Qaeda enemies — and told us: ‘You have a go this time, friends. We’ll keep a watching brief in case it all goes pear-shaped.’
David Cameron might enjoy a personal boost from the visit if he can persuade Obama not to extradite British computer hacker Gary McKinnon, 45, to America for trial.
The hacker is said to be a fragile character who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and might not survive the brutal U.S. prison system.
Cameron has said McKinnon should be tried in Britain. What’s the chance of that? U.S. presidents have the power to pardon alleged criminals, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — backed by seven judges — insists McKinnon ‘must be held accountable for the crimes he committed’, which, says Holder, cost £1 million (isn’t it marvellous how such round figures are arrived at?).
Obama would prefer members of Cameron’s Coalition to keep quiet about the continuing existence of America’s Guantanamo Bay prison camp, despite his promise to close it, and the cruel, year-long solitary confinement of 23-year-old Private Bradley Manning, who is accused of supplying the secret Government cables to WikiLeaks.
Cameron wouldn’t find it hard to keep quiet about either, but he is surrounded by boat-rockers in his own party and Lib Dems who think McKinnon, Guantanamo Bay and Private Manning are all disgraceful U.S. abuses of power.
Even if they do keep quiet, gay campaigner Peter Tatchell, who once tried to make a citizen’s arrest of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe — accusing him of torturing homosexuals — plans a London demonstration aimed at demonising Obama over his treatment of Manning, who, he says, ‘revealed war crimes’.
Obama doesn’t have to give us anything, of course. He knows that merely visiting Britain boosts our Government and head of state, the Queen. Cameron and co can pretend the ‘special relationship’ still exists. The Crown takes comfort in being honoured by the head of a former colony that chose to fight us for its independence.
The President’s state visit here, followed by France, will provide upbeat media coverage at home and valuable video that his re-election team will use to persuade U.S. voters in 2012 that Obama is loved and respected by leaders world-wide.
So it’s wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. As always.
Farewell to life force Nat
Old friends joined her husband, Adam, and daughter, Katya, to say farewell at Bibury, Gloucestershire, to journalist Natasha Edwards, who has died aged 54.
The daughter of prize-winning American journalist Eddy Gilmore and Bolshoi Ballet dancer Tamara Kolb-Chernashovaya, half-Russian Natasha was an extraordinary life force and a most convivial companion.
It was recalled in the eulogies that — well refreshed — she once swept out of a Gloucestershire restaurant carrying a brimming coal scuttle, having mistakenly picked it up instead of her large pink handbag.
In 1953, Hollywood made a film about the difficult, Cold War love affair of her parents — Never Let Me Go, starring Clark Gable and Gene Tierney.
Those who gathered at Bibury were heartbroken to let Nat go.
Hilton is no 5 star dresser
The Prime Minister’s ‘strategy chief’, Steve ‘Big Society’ Hilton, is alleged to be preparing a campaign to popularise the use of ‘Great Britain’ — in place of ‘United Kingdom’ — in references to our wet, windy, ill-governed isle. No 10 declines to comment.
Steve was pictured riding to work in T-shirt and shorts. Apparently, this is his business attire, emphasising he’s a ‘creative,’ not some be-suited political elf. I have never met him, nor heard him speak, so I can’t judge whether he’s an ahead-of-his-time genius or a flim-flam merchant.
Some Tories who know him avert their eyes and change the subject. Others see him as a Cameron indulgence who must be tolerated. No doubt, there are some who think he’s the bee’s knees.
Is Steve Hilton a flim-flam merchant?
His grand title and style of dress — signalling he’s not subject to the usual conventions at No 10 — are a departure from tradition, which is usually applauded mindlessly.
What might damage Cameron in the long run is the idea, personified by Hilton, that the PM’s chief preoccupation is presentation. That he’s Blair — without Tony’s thumping majorities.
My colleague Janet Street-Porter was first to suggest that Princess Beatrice’s appalling Royal Wedding hat should be offered for sale on eBay. (In fact, it raised more than £80,000 for charity.) Well done, Janet.
Isn’t it a pity the Duke of York and Janet — both divorced — didn’t click as a couple. Media-savvy Janet’s tact, discretion and sense of style would surely have made her an adornment to the Royal Family — a precursor, if you will, of Kate Middleton.
Feminist publisher Carmen Calill resigns from the Man Booker International literary panel because it decided to honour Philip Roth, whom she considers ‘narrow’ as a writer.
I was more impressed by Roth’s generous comments about his rival, John Updike, saying: ‘John has been dead for three years. And I slightly suspect that were he alive he would be picking up the International Booker Prize, not me. He was a great American master, surely the greatest man of letters of his period...’
The daily battering of Energy Secretary Chris Huhne over allegations that he persuaded his wife to take his driving licence penalty points for speeding reminds me of an old Punch drawing of the Army, Navy and RAF dropping shells, mortars and bombs into a distant building on which a lone figure can be seen huddling rebelliously amid the wreckage. A police official is explaining to a reporter: ‘We believe he may be able to help us with our inquiries.’
Kate and the paps
The £7,500-a-night Beverly Hills Hotel suite reportedly reserved for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to LA in July has an adjoining pool, waterfall, whirlpool spa and outside shower. It’s paparazzi heaven. Don’t even think of disrobing, Kate!
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Obama promised in his first worlwide press conference with David Cameron one year ago; that in view of America's 'unsurpassed special relationship' between our two countries that an appropriate solution would be found re-Gary McKInnon. A U.K Trial is the only appropriate solution in the Gary McKInnon case and Britain needs to see the compassionate face of America we expected to see when Obama became president. Our 1689 Bill of Rights still valid today says, cruel and unusual punishment is outlawed. Gary McKInnon who has Aspergers/ASD plus mental illness dating from 1983, (long before his current legal difficulties) has suffered 9 yrs of mental torture for a crime which according to the National High Tech Crime Unit would have attracted a 6 months community service sentence in the U.K. David Cameron and Gordon Brown have both 'asked' Obama to allow try Gary McKinnon to kept in the U.K. Time to keep your promise Obama. A U.K Trial is the only appropriate solution.
- Jay, London, 23/5/2011 10:06
Gaddafi's only mistake was to co-erce other african states to stop using the u.s. dollar and set up an african currency based on GOLD , a proper currency. unlike the bogus euro , sterling and dollar. The world bank and its puppets has put a stop to that.
- will willson, bedale, n yorks, 23/5/2011 09:45
There are some of the "old school" who don't want American help, nor the rest of their trash they force on the rest of the world. I remember well, the two years - 1940-42 - fighting for our lives while the Americans were quite happy to see us go down to Germany. That is of course, until Germany declared war ON THEM. Keep everything American in America - please. That includes all your historically distorted films on how you have won everything, everywhere!!
- English Patriot, South Newington, Oxfordshire, 23/5/2011 09:10
Why did Andy Marr fly to Washington when Obama is coming to London this week ??
- Jeanette Eccles, London, 23/5/2011 08:16
Gary McKinnon is a man with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of Autism, who, while searching for UFO evidence, discovered that thousands of NASA and Pentagon computers had NO PASSWORDS set and NO FIREWALLS ! Thinking this to be some inside sabotage to destroy american democracy, he left hundreds of notes telling the system administrators that their security was flawed. Americas answer to this was to demand his extradition to face SIXTY years in a US prison ??? He is not asking for exoneration merely to be tried in the UK where was born and has never left.
- Frank N Sense, London, Great Britain, 23/5/2011 07:51
"We’d prefer the U.S. to play a .. positive role in the military action against Gaddafi, not leave it to the U.S.’s partners in Nato.. We need America’s help to finish him off." Yes. Of course Europeans always need US help to finish something off. It was always this way. Yugoslav Civil War lasted 9 yrs under European 'management" and all the while EU was pleading for US intervention. Finally, after 9 yrs, US intervened directly. 89 days (and one Chinese embassy) later the war was over. Europeans LOVE US intervention when it's in Europeans' interests (Libyan oil). They hate US intervention when it is in the US' interest. So hypocritical (not to mention, cowardly). "America’s Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the cruel, year-long solitary confinement of 23-year-old Private Bradley Manning," Obama's grandfather was held in a British concentration camp in Kenya for 2 yrs and tortured EVERY day leaving him with permanent physical injuries. So please, no pious comments about prison camps.
- ROMEO SIERRA, TEXAS, 23/5/2011 03:48
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