On A Mutual Love-In
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
So as Americans like our Queen, we Brits tend to like your Presidents. I happen to like this President, which meant that the usual bile I reserve for the saccharine News coverage the BBC ladled out for the visit to Britain by the Obamas was largely absent today.
We are supposed to live in a les deferential age, so the fawning coverage of the recent Royal Wedding and today’s Presidential visit, especially by the BBC is still difficult to stomach, despite, as I say my own liking for Obama. The heavy duty serious coverage and analysis is, as usual left to Channel 4 News and later on by the flagship programme – our own ‘Situation Room’ if you like, ‘Newsnight’.
Not that there will all that much for anyone to say. Today President Obama met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and took the salute in Buckingham Palace gardens, because security prevents American Presidents being driven down The Mall in an open topped carriage. The Obamas then went on to meet Prince William and his new wife, who is now Princess of something or other, before going off to play ping pong with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at a Secondary School.
We shouldn’t get too carried away, but ping pong was the opening gambit between President Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao of China in the former’s historic visit to ‘Red China’. How ironic that the Chinese Politbureau, despite having converted itself to Market Leninism, in the past decade completely turned the tables on the liberal Anglo American economic model and sat back as the Western economies consumed themselves to unsustainable excess and then near collapse. But I digress.
Tomorrow the serious talking gets underway in Britain between Obama and Cameron, although let us not pretend that they are some kind of equals. The BBC will prattle on about the ‘Special Relationship’, and Royal correspondents will become Presidential correspondents for another day. Americans will, if they have noticed that their President is away, be baffled to hear the words ‘special relationship’, and cynics will say the whole visit is a PR stunt. Which of course to some extent it is.
But who can blame the Obamas,and who can blame the United States? Any President, however remote his ancestry will always be given a welcome in Ireland, the Emerald Isle. And US Presidents (George Bush the second excepted) can count on a warm welcome in Britain.
But the biggest relief is surely that David Cameron appears to be his own man, and anxious to dispel the ‘poodle’ image that was associated with Tony Blair.
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