By Alex Smith
On the morning after the presidential election last November, David Cameron sat in his cosy Notting Hill living room and, in a burst of soundbitten ineloquence, declared to a YouTube audience that he’d slept through ‘an incredible night, an incredible, historic moment, an incredible moment for the world that will be good for everybody.’
Rewind four months to July and Cameron is describing details of his ‘very positive’ meeting with Barack Obama, and aligning himself as a statesman of equal international repute: ‘we talked about Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq’, Cameron says, ‘and we also had quite a long conversation about the economy, and how we should respond to the economic difficulties.’
For Cameron’s part, his interpretation is a romantic and aspirational one. But the fact remains that while the conversation was apparently cordial, even trivial at times, it betrayed the two men’s widely divergent worldviews and polar opposite approaches to international cooperation and the role of government at this time of economic crisis.
In the end, Obama – who had given an impassioned speech on the need for European cohesion in Berlin only days earlier – concluded that David Cameron is a ‘lightweight‘ and asked his aides to put together a report on Tory Euro-scepticism.
The gap between the two men will again be evident this afternoon, as Obama delivers his global rallying call to renew internationalism and mulitlateral cooperation through institutions such as the European Union, in the face of the global economic downturn.
He will also prepare the ground for exactly the type of fiscal stimulus package that Gordon Brown is implementing here but that David Cameron opposes.
One the South Side Chicagoan raised partly on food stamps by a single mother, who embraced Hip-Hop culture with a casual brush of the shoulder and fist bump, the other a product of Etonian Middle England, it’s easy to see why Obama and Cameron’s interpretations and political and economic approaches might be so polarised and why they might not be the most natural bosom buddies.
And as a true conservative of the right, it’s easy to see why David Cameron spent two years supporting and providing a platform for Obama’s Republican rival for the White House, saying last August ‘I am a huge fan of John McCain and think he would make a great President, and I’ve said that.’
So this week, if you become lethargic to the sound of Obama’s global Call to Arms, or immune to hearing about the new president’s sound economic recovery plans and bold new internationalism, spare a thought for the Tory leader. He may never have felt more isolated.