July 16 (KATAKAMI / BusinessWeek.Com / Bloomberg) — David Cameron, preparing for his first visit to the U.S. as U.K. prime minister, said he sees Britain as America’s “junior partner.”
“President Obama and I have a very good relationship, we get on well,” Cameron told Time magazine in an interview published today before next week’s trip to Washington. “I believe in the special relationship. Britain is, of course, the junior partner. I hope we bring things to that relationship.”
Cameron has faced criticism at home for the way he handled President Barack Obama’s criticism of BP Plc over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. In June, one newspaper told him to “Stand up for your country” after he said he understood the president’s “frustration.”
“This all fits in with what Cameron has been saying since 2006, that he wants to have a more measured, balanced and less emotional approach,” said Robin Niblett, director of London- based foreign affairs institute Chatham House. “We as Brits need to understand that we’re no longer just sitting in the same sandpit looking out on the world from a Cold War perspective.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday it will call BP executives to testify to address their concerns that the company’s business interests and last year’s release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi were linked. Britain’s ambassador to the U.S., Nigel Sheinwald, wrote to the panel’s chairman, John Kerry, saying he wanted to reject “inaccuracies” that were “harmful” to the U.K.
“I am troubled by the claims made in the press that Megrahi was released because of an oil deal involving BP, and that the medical evidence supporting his release was paid for by the Libyan government,” Sheinwald wrote.
It was Winston Churchill who enshrined the term “special relationship” in the aftermath of World War II to describe the closeness of Britain’s ties with the U.S., which won independence from its colonial master in 1783.
Churchill stepped out of the bath in front of Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare he had “nothing to hide,” according to the premier’s wartime secretary Patrick Kinna.
Harold Macmillan, the Conservative prime minister from 1957 to 1963 whose portrait hung on Cameron’s wall in opposition, said he hoped to “play Greece to their Rome,” offering culture and sophistication to America’s might.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were close personally as well as politically. More recently, Tony Blair found himself derided at home as a “poodle” to George W. Bush, after he declared there was a “blood price” to the U.S.-U.K. alliance.
‘Full and Frank’
Blair’s successor Gordon Brown distanced himself from Bush, wearing a suit to their Camp David meeting, and describing the discussions as “full and frank.”
Cameron’s spokesman Steve Field told reporters today that the prime minister was attempting to be realistic about the nature of the relationship.
“Clearly the U.S. is a larger country,” Field said. “Its economy is five times the size of the U.K.’s as is its population. It has a larger army. We need to understand the dynamics of the relationship, and to understand our role. That’s the best way to bring our influence to bear.”
In addition to “of course” discussing BP, Europe’s second-biggest energy company by market value, when he meets Obama at the White House, the prime minister said he expected to talk to the president about Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East and Turkey’s entry to the European Union.
Americans may take offense at the prime minister’s characterization of the U.S. role in D-Day, on June 6, 1944, when Allied forces landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.
“I think of my grandfather going ashore at D-Day, with the Americans in support of the British,” Cameron said. The U.S. landed 73,000 troops on the day, to 83,000 British and Canadian forces. The estimated American casualty number for the day, around 6,600, was more than twice the British figure.