Fraser Nelson

Brown gets his Oval Office moment

Brown gets his Oval Office moment
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Well, after all that, it's over. Brown looked like a groupie that had just been invited on stage as he sat in the Oval Office beaming from ear to ear beside the Messiah. It was a very different outcome to that he imagined: there was no podium to speak at, no formal press conference, no toothpaste sharing, none of the formalities that have been extended to Tony Blair. Brown was on the same losers chair that the soon-to-be-ex-Japanese PM was on last month. Photographers were invited in, then a handful of journalists took questions from behind the sofa. Brown then grew perhaps a little to excited, referring to the President as "Barack". Strange move, given what sticklers for titles they are in Washington. The informality that was not reciprocated, Obama referred to "Prime Minister Brown". We could see behind them that the space where the bust of Churchill used to stand (a gift from Blair, that Obama actually sent back to No10) there now stands a bust of Lincoln. But importantly, Obama did say "special" to describe the US-UK relationship, and said it would grow stronger.

So how will the Brown trip go down at home? There is a danger that the errors could eclipse what was an undoubted coup of securing the visit in the first place. Tom Bradby, ITN's political editor, has described it as a "chaotically-organised visit" saying that the journalists were left outside, not knowing if they'd get to ask a question or not. The point, he said, was that it seemed the Obama White House didn't really care much about Brown's visit. This may, of course, be due to the change in the White House staff not knowing the ropes. CBS reported that "it's generally believed that what Brown's out to rescue in America — as much as the world economy — is his own political future" and quoted a British journalist describing Brown's mood as "panting desperation". Also Brown was foolish enough to sit by an aircraft window as his aides came at him with a hairbrush, trying to make him look presentable as he made his way down the aircraft steps. The cameras caught it all, and Channel Four showed it.

Poor old Brown does seem to be jinxed in this regard. He goes to Iraq, and gets photographed behind a machine gun. He launches his leadership speech, his face obscured by an autocue. Once on a trip to China, he spoke to reporters while leaning his arm on what he thought was a headrest. It was someone's head. They just adjusted their headphone, and kept on watching the film. More charitable souls than me will find this gaucheness endearing. It makes me appreciate how lucky we were to have a class act like Blair - on the international scene, at least.  But in spite of all of this, my guess is that most newspapers will play it straight tomorrow. Depending on how long their reporters were kept waiting outside the White House, that is.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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