This does not require commentary. What more can be said?
Gordon Brown today flies to Washington for his first summit with President George Bush, after issuing a ringing endorsement of Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the US.
As he prepares the Labour party for a possible election next spring, the Prime Minister attempted to neutralise the divisive issue of the transatlantic alliance with a declaration of where Britain’s interests lie.
‘It is in the British national interest that the relationship with the United States is our single most important bilateral relationship,’ the Prime Minister said in remarks that are designed to make it clear that Brown will not abandon the Atlantic alliance for cheap electoral gain.
Brown’s unequivocal declaration, as he prepares to hold his first talks as Prime Minister with President Bush over dinner at Camp David, is a strong signal of his determination to maintain the Atlantic alliance, after Washington had been alarmed by what it saw as mixed messages from London.
Lord Malloch Brown, the Foreign Office Minister, had said that Britain should no longer be ‘joined at the hip’ with America.
While Brown sends warm signals to Washington, he is unlikely to personally align himself so closely to Bush in the way Tony Blair did. The Brown camp knows that the perception of Blair as Bush’s ‘poodle’ was a key factor in undermining the former Prime Minister, which in turn damaged Labour in the polls.
Brown has spent the past month attempting to wipe out such negatives as he prepares the ground for the next election. At a special political session of the cabinet at Chequers on Thursday ministers agreed that Douglas Alexander, the election co-ordinator, would place the Labour party on an election footing.
Ministers discussed the possibility of calling an election as early as this autumn to exploit the ‘Brown bounce’ in the polls. The Prime Minister believes it would be wrong to call a snap election because he feels it is important to prove to voters that he can deliver change.
But a spring election next year looks increasingly likely after ministers heard a glowing report based on Labour’s private polling. There is also concern that Brown should act quickly before a feared economic downturn.
The cabinet was told that all the negative aspects about Brown – that he was seen as scruffy, a plotter after last September’s mini coup, as well as a divisive figure – have now been replaced by positive views, as he is seen as a serious figure who is uniting his party and who dresses well.
However, David Cameron’s ratings have headed in the opposite direction, according to Labour’s polling. Positive views about him – that he was likeable, young and energetic – have been replaced by negative views that he is shallow and addicted to spin. Ministers were told that these views are beginning to harden.
Key members of the Brown camp believe they have arrived at what they are describing as the ‘West Wing moment’ – the scene in the US television series where President Bartlet’s aides wait to learn whether voters think he is a strong leader as he delivers the annual State of the Union address. Brown is polling strongly on that score, in contrast to Cameron, whose leadership ratings have dropped after the grammar schools row.
Brown made clear he is an ardent Atlanticist when he said no major global problems could be solved without the US. ‘We know that we cannot solve any of the world’s major problems without the active engagement of the US. And just as Britain and America have always stood side by side in tackling the great global challenges of the past, so we will continue to work very closely together as friends to tackle the great global challenges of the future.
‘The relationship between an American President and a British Prime Minister will always be strong, and I am looking forward to my meeting with President Bush to discuss how we can work together to meet many of the great challenges we face.’
Brown and Bush will meet over dinner tonight at the presidential retreat of Camp David, where they will discuss Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process and climate change. Brown is also set to meet Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary-general, tomorrow in New York. [Emphasis added.]