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Daily View: The special relationship

Clare Spencer | 09:19 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

As the British Prime Minister David Cameron prepares to meet with US President Barack Obama, commentators discuss the nature of the "special relationship".

The Telegraph editorial argues that issues over Afghanistan, the Lockerbie bomber's release from jail and BP all prove that the US-UK relationship is still important, just not necessarily special:

"The fact is that these visits do matter, perhaps no longer to assert a 'special' relationship of the sort defined by Winston Churchill in 1945 but a pragmatic partnership of mutual respect and shared interests. To that end, it always helps if the two leaders get on well."

The Daily Mail editorial urges David Cameron to make sure the early release of the Lockerbie bomber doesn't put him on the back foot in discussions:

Barack Obama and David Cameron at a previous meeting
"But Mr Cameron, while himself rightly disgusted by Megrahi's release, must not allow this week's official visit to turn into another opportunity for the Obama administration to denigrate this nation and its interests. In particular, there must be no repeat of his initial reluctance to defend BP against continued attacks from Mr Obama and his colleagues. Yes, its response to the Gulf spill was shambolic, but the company remains vital to our economic well-being."

The Times editorial says [subscription required] that the timing is right to redefine the special relationship:

"On both Afghanistan and BP, Mr Obama's position is defensive as his political problems pile up. Mr Cameron, therefore, has the opportunity to be exactly what the special relationship demands: a candid friend. The interests of the two nations remain closely aligned. This is not a moment, such as Harold Wilson's repudiation of the Vietnam conflict in 1966, for a breach in relations. But it is a moment for Britain to exert its position as a confident partner to the nation that, for all the rapid emergence of India, will remain its closest ally for the foreseeable future."

In the Independent David Usborne says despite planned media coverage in the US, the special relationship doesn't matter in the US:

"At least there were some corny TV images when Tony Blair went to George Bush's ranch in Texas - but Obama doesn't have one of those, and Cameron is not a natural for the buddy role. Mr Cameron has said he doesn't want Britain to be 'slavish' in its dealings with the US. But that doesn't mean that he is any less anxious than his recent predecessors to keep alive the narrative of the special relationship. Like the permanent seat on the UN Security Council, it helps Britain look more important than it is. Still, Cameron muddied the myth a little bit by acknowledging in an eve-of-visit interview with Time magazine that Britain is very much the junior in that partnership."

Jackie Ashley says in the Guardian that the trip is a ritual with all substance lost:

"For the US, the most important relationships are with China, the rising Asian countries, the Hispanic nations to the south, and the EU as a trading bloc. Britain is way down the list. Cameron has described us as the junior partner in the relationship, which is obvious; but it is no longer such an important relationship anyway."
"What I fear is that the Tories have to burnish their closeness to the US mainly because they cannot acknowledge the reality, which is that we are tied to Europe more strongly than they'd like."

Links in full

Telegraph | A pragmatic Mr Cameron goes to Washington
Daily Mail | Mr Cameron must stand up for Britain
Times | A Candid Friend
Jackie Ashley | Guardian | The PM's American trip is a ritual with all substance lost
David Usborne | Independent | The PM will never bring America to a standstill

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