Friday, 6 May 2011

Barack and Michelle Do London - the story so far

As mentioned before, Barack and Michelle are due in London for a visit the end of this month. I've done a bit of digging around to find out what we know so far about that visit, and thought I should give you a quick update.

Bear in mind, though that:

1) For obvious reasons of security, the President's schedule - especially for a foreign visit - is typically not released much ahead of time. And...
2) Although Democrats Abroad (which you should all join, if you are US citizens living abroad) is the official party organisation of the US Democratic Party, when the President travels abroad on official business he is - rightly - severely restricted in the his ability to any Party political activity. Which means is surpassingly unlikely that he will be able to do anything "with us". I'm sure he cries himself to sleep every night over that.

So... President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be visiting the UK on May 24-26. The visit will be an official state visit, and they will be staying in... what for it... Buckinham Palace, as a guest of the Queen.

I KNOW! I'd love to get that invite, if only so I could sneak around after the Secret Service goes to bed and poke through the linen cupboards.

Anyway, the US Embassy of London has a helpful page giving the details announced so far (not many), details of the Obama's last visit here in 2009 and some interesting videos on life in the travelling press corps. It looks like they have set up this page to be updated as more info is released, so it's worth bookmarking it now:

Prince Charles, the Heir to the throne here and - of more interest of late - father to the world's most famous bridegroom - met recently with the President in the White House where the appear to have exchanged pleasantries in the longstanding tradition of content free Head of State (or heir to Head of State) interactions over the years.

The President also congratulated the Prince on the wedding of his son, Prince William, to Catherine Middleton and extended his best wishes to the newlywed couple. The President looks forward to visiting the United Kingdom at the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen during his State visit later this month.

Slightly more interesting, perhaps is to speculate what Her Majesty the Queen's feelings might be about the impending Presidential visit - she and Michelle Obama appear to have forged something unusually like a real bond of affection on the First Lady's last visit here. Bearing in mind that Queen Elizabeth's remarkable longevity is often attributed to her extreme skill at projecting neutrality - she was unusually non-neutral in her team's comment on the supposed breach of protocol when there was physical contact (gasp!) between the two women.

"This was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation between the queen and Michelle Obama," a palace spokeswoman said.
 Oo er! Ahem.

Undoubtedly, President Obama will meet during his visit with the UK Prime Minster - Conservative Leader David Cameron.

When they do, I wonder if Barack will raise the obvious point that the British economy is actually on the point of shrinking, with GDP in decline, at a time with the US economy appears haltingly to be carry on down the road to recovery.

Of course, the British Government has embarked on a program of strenuous cuts to government spending, whereas the US government has attempted to avoid such draconian measures. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation... Hmmm...

Whatever happens, I am already steeling myself for the inevitable British press hand wringing about whether the US President REALLY REALLY likes us or just SORT OF KIND OF likes us. Is our special relationship REALLY, truly special, or just kinda sort of special?

There will undoutedly be extensive media coverage of any gift that the President might chose to bring for the PM and the Royal Family, and it will be digested endlessly for a significance that it almost certainly does not have.

I therefore would like to take this opportunitiy to go out on a limb and make a flagrant prediction - the UK and the USA will remain strong and vital allies after this trip, no matter what else happens on it.


Anonymous said...

This time I hope the Obamas do not embarass Americans again with a tackey gift and inappropriate social manners. Michelle will, no doubt, wear outfits that are hidious, inappropriate for a royal visitation. No doubt, her shoes will be a color that absolutely do not match or fight the shade of her outfit. There is no hope for this woman!

Obama London said...

Oh yeah. Totally. Because when hanging out with the British upper class, noted exemplars of tasteful and appropriate attire, it's embarrassing when our first lady's shoes fight the shade of her outfit. Awkward.