The Telegraph, Toby Harnden.
Gordon Brown hasn't even arrived here in Washington yet and I'm feeling slightly queasy. Of course, Britain should want to be a pre-eminent ally of the United States. But do we need to be quite so crawlingly needy and obvious about it? The way the British government craves approval from President Barack Obama is humiliating, and very probably counter-productive.
If you want an example of how embarrassing the transatlantic wooing has become then check out this Times article by Gordon Brown designed set the tone for his visit to Washington tomorrow. Here are a few lowlights from the article, and a couple of other examples of gratuitous obsequiousness.
1. "Winston Churchill described the joint inheritance of Britain and America as not just a shared history but a shared belief in the great principles of freedom and the rights of man - what Barack Obama has described as the enduring power of our ideals - democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope." (Gordon Brown article)
Where to begin with this? First of all, is it sensible to cite Winston Churchill when Obama has just returned the Churchill bust loaned to President George W. Bush? Second, the implication here is that Churchill talked of "democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope" as being enduring transatlantic principles. In fact, this is a line from Obama's victory speech on election night and he wasn't talking about Britain. Does Brown think Obama won't notice?
2. "And as America stands at its own dawn of hope, I want that hope to be fulfilled through us all coming together to shape the 21st century as the first century of a truly global society." (Gordon Brown article)
Is it really necessary to describe Obama's election as representing America's "own dawn of hope"? Hope was Obama's campaign slogan (and one suspects that the word getting quoted back at him by people asking for something might be getting a little tiresome) and this platitude-laden sentence reads like it came from "Hello" magazine.
3. "I have visited America many times and have many friends there, and as prime minister I want to do more to strengthen even further our relationship with America." (Gordon Brown article)
It's great that Brown has holidayed in Cape Cod but no one in the US really gives a monkeys about that and mentioning it seems a tad, well, desperate.
4. "And there is no international partnership in recent history that has served the world better than the special relationship between Britain and the United States." (Gordon Brown article)
This before meeting a president who built his campaign on having opposed the Iraq war and has written that the US "can no longer afford to go to the UN prepared for war, armed only with the signatures of Britain and Togo". Maybe it was still on the laptop from Tony Blair remarks alongside President George W. Bush.
5."That is why President Obama and I will discuss this week a global new deal, whose impact can stretch from the villages of Africa to reforming the financial institutions of London and New York- and giving security to the hard-working families in every country." (Gordon Brown article)
Global new deal? Obama's domestic agenda is in many respects an attempt to secure a 21st Century New Deal. That's ambitious enough. For Brown to suggest an Anglo-American-led "global new deal" that can give security to "hard-working families in every country" is so far-fetched as to be meaningless.
6. "I'm obviously delighted to be here on the day after you were sworn in as Madame Secretary, as Secretary of State, and three months to the day since America voted for change, and two weeks to the day since President Obama issued his clarion call, not just to the American people but to the global community, to come together to tackle shared challenges." (David Miliband, Foreign Secretary)
This was uttered last month after Miliband's talks with Hillary Clinton. Quite apart from the diplomacy of citing the "change" slogan that Obama used to defeat Hillary, is it really necessary to be so publicly pleased that Obama beat John McCain? It's transparent fawning and will be seen as such by the Obama administration.
7. The White House hands back a bust of Churchill. Big deal - shrug it off. But no, Brown responds by packing his suitcase with a pencil holder made from the timber of HMS Gannet, a framed commission of HMS Resolute and - I didn't make this up - all seven volumes of Sir Martin Gilbert's Churchill biography.
After the Brown!