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.