Is Mr Brown’s journey necessary?

Reading the briefing from the US side on Mr Brown’s desperate visit to the new President, he would be better off not going.

The President is born of the struggle to free the slaves and to free America from British colonialism. He does not automatically see the UK as his best friend. We hear that he wants to base the relationship on a realistic appraisal of what the UK can do for the US. Fine. He will probably change his mind over time, as his predecessors have done. I see no need to force the pace of that change, or to demean the UK by seeking special favours or special language to describe the relationship at this stage. Sometimes it is better to show some British reserve and dignity instead of trying to force a special friendliness which is not yet there.

Mr Obama at the moment wants something. He wants the UK to send more troops to help US ones in Afghanistan. Let him work out how best to ask us and how to persuade us that it is worth doing. Personally I think we should tell him he is wrong, and plan a withdrawal from Afghanistan. I don’t see why our PM has to pay the airfare to cross the Atlantic for a short meeting, and not even be offered lunch for his pains.

I appreciate Mr Brown wants to go and chance the spin game for different reasons. He wants to “sell” the President his plan for world economic policy. This salesmanship will take the form of picking up all the ingredients of the two massive Obama state spending packages, and presenting them as part of the Brown approach to economic intervention. You can write the communiqué and press release now without bothering to go.

The absurdity of it all is underlined by the UK briefing, telling us Mr Brown wants some of the Obama star dust to rub off on his bent and unpopular shoulders. Why tell us that, to confirm our worst fears about this unnecessary journey. If they have something to fix for the G20, fix it on the phone.

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11 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know he wasn’t even getting lunch! How the mighty of yesterday are reduced. I noted Blair over the weekend being driven around Gaza in a rather pointless manner before smiling at some school children and looking at their Arabic school books which I presume he did not understand. All this and no meetings with anyone in authority at all. It’s all a long way from the heady days of 1997.

  2. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I find it quite sickening the way we are fawning at Obamas feet. Just leave him alone let him do the running and asking. Have we no pride left at all.

  3. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    JR: “You can write the communiqué and press release now without bothering to go. ”

    They probably have done!

  4. Ian Jones
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    How else is Brown going to sell his next budget to the middle classes who will be crucified other than Obama told me it was the right thing to do so you must support it.

    The only reason I can see why the Yanks want to be in Afghanistan is to have another route into Iran when they decide to invade. Otherwise we are fighting over bits of rock and sand which contains no more hostile forces to the west than lots of other countries in the world!!!

    Lets get out now and leave them to it. Obama is writing more cheques that he hopes will never be cashed, if the UK, Europe and China can get together maybe we can actually cash them and bring America back into line……

  5. alan jutson
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Perhaps if he had to pay his own fare he would think twice and use video conferencing, although I have to say face to face is much better if you are intending a long and detailed discussion with more than one person being involved, as you get a better interpretation of body language.

    No problems with him going if it is for a real reason, and not just to try and suck up to the US, or anybody else for that matter.

    Problem I have, is that having failed to regulate sensibly here to stop a Banking Crisis, and having already been shown up as being weak in negotiations with the Banks subsequently, why does he think he can offer anything that will save the World when all of the people involved are going to be at a meeting here shortly.

    Sounds a bit like he is trying to organise the agenda in advance.
    If so, most people would do this without publicity if that was the case.

  6. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    “If they have something to fix for the G20, fix it on the phone.”

    How refreshing would it not be if our politicians lived up to their wonderment of modern technology and fixed virtually everything by phone, conference calling, video links, email etc etc?

    The sheer waste of time and taxpayers’ money being spent on meetings, conferences, fact-finding missions, town-twinning and general junketing defies belief in these supposedly stringent times. And not only the direct participants go along – always there’s a team of advisors, support assistants and, quite frequently, spouses getting in on the act with upper class fares and accommodation!

    Put a ban on the lot from say 1st May and let there be a special application for anyone in central or local government to travel with no conferences at all.

    JUST TRY IT OUT FOR THE REST OF 2009 AND SEE HOW LITTLE IT AFFECTS ANYTHING EXCEPT THE PUBLIC PURSE!

    Which leads on to yesterday’s report that Alan Milburn took a 5-day overseas trip a week ago and is being engaged by Mr Blair on a paid role in his organisation. How can an active MP, already with an extra job for the government, consider this?
    Assuming this trip took place in the recent recess period (not necessarily a norm for these extraneous activities) why was he not working on behalf of his constituents?
    Did he relinquish his salary and expenses entitlement for the week?
    So many questions that will never receive an answer unless The Mail on Sunday gets hold of a story with which to twist their tails!

    We’re looking for the right opportunity to blog here on the general theme of ‘LABOUR WATCH – MONITORING & KEEPING LABOUR SNOUTS OUT OF THE TROUGH IN THEIR DYING DAYS!’

  7. Lola
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Brown’s going for himself alone.

  8. Jonathan Cook
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Of course the trip to the US is just for the photo opportunity on the lawn of the White House.

    Maybe we could rustle up a “John Smiths Beer” style cardboard cut-out of Gordon Brown to post overseas for photo shoots?!

    A cardboard cut-out will have exactly the same impact on global policy as Brown’s PR visit in person will.

    P.S. Remember Churchill’s trips across the Atlantic to meet Roosevelt in an attempt to gain his support during the early years of the war? Compare and contrast the magnitude and importance of those trips with Brown’s PR visit.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted March 3, 2009 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      Brilliant! If we could get one for the Foreign Secretary as well it wouldn’t upset people.

  9. brian kelly
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    The whole process is demeaning to this country. First we have the nauseous and humiliating jockying for position to be the first world leader to have an ‘audience’ with Obama. It is frankly juvenile. Then the build up to prior to Brown’s trip to the States. We await the spectacle and results of him being there. This article describes exactly as to what our policy and strategy should be in our relationship with Obama and the USA. It is a dignified approach and entirely in keeping with a country confident of itself and of its place and influence in the world. All of this has been lost, unfortunately, over these latter years. The spectacle is degrading.

  10. mike stallard
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    This visit is Brown’s last chance to win the next election, apparently. It is getting big billing on Labour List. Apparently, according to Mr Podesta, (who he?) Mr Brown is much closer to Obama’s thinking than the Conservatives. Mr Brown and Mr Obama will show that they go hand in hand to solve the world crisis with Mr Brown as the senior partner.
    I am not at all sure that this is why Mr Brown has been given the opportunity to address Congress…….
    Meanwhile, no doubt, the wretched soldiers (as ever) will rot in Afghanistan, without the proper equipment (EU agreement by Mr Blair) without proper instructions (nobody in the government has ever been in the armed services) and without money (less than the current loss on the bank take over).
    Sic transit gloria mundi……

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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