Monday 27 October 2003

Bush is not welcome in Britain

Just so's we're absolutely crystal clear on this:


We do not share his warmongering ambitions and his presence here is an affront to our democracy and an insult to our intelligence.

The president's state visit serves no one's interests but his own

by Roy Hattersley

Fetch Tony Fetch.... Good boy.... Has anyone yet explained why President George W Bush is about to make a state visit to the United Kingdom? In my time at the Foreign Office, the supreme accolade of an invitation from Her Majesty was only awarded after long deliberation had convinced the prime minister and foreign secretary that Britain's national interest would be served by arranging for the king, queen or president in question to perform a number of meaningless ceremonies and eat numerous mediocre meals in the company of the royal family. What do we have to gain by feting President Bush?
According to Downing Street, George Bush's presence in London will provide "an important opportunity to deepen our close relations with a close international partner". How much closer is it possible to get than the closeness that made us follow America into an unjustified war? President and prime minister meet each other almost every month. Clearly, this state visit had been arranged for reasons that do not meet the usual criteria.

I was minister in attendance when the king of Sweden made his state visit to Scotland. We had just confirmed our membership of the old common market and wanted to demonstrate that we still loved the countries of the European Free Trade Area which had chosen to remain outside. Whether or not that object was achieved by the court and cabinet singing Will Ye No' Come Back Again? in the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms is not the point. It was done for a purpose.

The same was true of the state visit of President Ceausescu of Romania. That was after my time. But I did accompany him from Heathrow to Chequers at the beginning of an earlier weekend break. He complained throughout the journey that he was being treated with little respect. The Queen was not there to meet him on the runway. No helicopter had been provided. On the way back (when I was also chaperone) he paid a visit to the duty free shop where he bought large quantities of rubbish which he charged to Her Britannic Majesty. He got his state visit in the end because he was thought to be an anti-Soviet communist who could be flattered into causing trouble for Moscow.

But how is the national interest - real or imaginary - served by George Bush inspecting a guard of honour from the Household Brigade? Is there a single item of US policy - foreign or domestic - that will be changed by the talks that accompany the visit? Will the two leaders know each other better by the time the cavalcade moves on? Heaven help us, this state visit has all the signs of a genuine tribute. Tony Blair is expressing his admiration and gratitude.

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