Fraser Nelson

Brown visit unravels

Brown visit unravels
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Oh dear. Gordon Brown has landed in Washington to discover that there is to be no joint press conference with Barack Obama, none of the treatment that Bush, Clinton and Bush routinely gave visiting British Prime Ministers. Just a 30-minute chat and a couple of questions probably sitting on some chairs. To the frustration of No10, it seems that the Obama White House has its own protocol. When doomed leaders come to visit, such as Taro Aso of Japan and Gordon Brown of Britain, all they will get is a quick photocall. So what does this mean? When Aso was given the low-key treatment (which seems identical to what Brown is being given) the Japan Times had this to say:

"Some analysts said the hidden message from Washington was that, while it recognizes the importance of maintaining the strong alliance with Japan to rebuild the global economy and deal with Afghanistan and North Korea, it is also fully aware that mounting pressures may force Aso out of power soon. The meeting "sent an implicit signal that Washington supports the Liberal Democratic Party, if not Prime Minister Taro Aso himself," said Weston Konishi, a Japan-U.S. relations expert and adjunct fellow at the Mansfield Foundation."

The dispatches from Ben Brogan and Toby Harnden give us, in real time, the unraveling of this visit. Hilariously, No10 is claiming the press conference was planned but was cancelled "because of snow" - as if Obama had made podiums out of snow in the rose garden, but visibility wasn't so good. There is more comedy. Brogan observes that the gift that Brown has chosen for Obama is a relic from a ship that used to shell rebels in Sudan. Nice touch. No10 say they are still negotiating, evidently still holding out for a press conference. That's what I call the audacity of hope.

UPDATE: No.10 is in a tiz. It says there will be a "media event" rather than a press conference, and adds it is still "in talks with the White House on the format" of said event. Why admit to the wrangling behind the scenes? Better to pretend it's all going as planned. If the White House never offered the press conference, why allow journalists to think otherwise? Basic error of expectations management here, it sounds almost as if no one had the nerve to tell to Brown that he will not get the Blair treatment. Just half an hour, no more. It makes it all the worse that Obama's diary includes a meeting with the Boy Scouts of America. If they hear a Scottish voice saying "Dib dib dib" then things will be getting really desperate.

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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