Discreet charm of the men in their macs

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The Independent Online
When the President of the United States decides to walk from Westminster Abbey to Downing Street, he does not walk those mean streets alone.

The discreet back-up team he has brought with him is in close attendance - the long, black bullet-proofed limo with the registration plate reading "Washington DC: A capital city!", the US Air Force field ambulance with its emergency plasma supplies, the marine in shiny shoes carrying a briefcase containing the nuclear trigger. Not to mention the 700 secret service agents talking up the sleeves of their cream macs shipped in from Washington for the duration.

Indeed Kenneth Clarke, so keen on Tuesday to promote his aim of making Britain the enterprise centre of Europe, would have been thrilled to see such a ringing endorsement of British manufacturing: never before have so many Burberry raincoats been visible on the streets of Westminster.

Everywhere the macs were, providing a human shield when the President and the Prime Minister made a statement in the middle of Downing Street, squeezing into the President's limo for the slow glide down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament, stopping a press photographer from snapping Mrs Clinton when she arrived at the Foreign Office.

Indeed security was so tight that rumour has it Mr Clinton was obliged to show some sort of identification when he went to Buckingham Palace in the afternoon; already duped once, the Queen wanted to be sure she was not about to have tea with a DJ in disguise.

And it was security that was the central theme of Mr Clinton's address to the parliamentarians assembled in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords. Security for Ireland, security for Bosnia, the President talked about the kind of things which if delivered might provide security for the Clintons in the White House. Earnestly he urged his audience to strive for peace.

The Clintons must have been happy with their day in London. They met the Queen, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod and the Marquess of Cholmondeley. But, given his precarious position back home, the person the President would have been most thrilled to shake hands with was the American tourist he encountered on his walkabout. Allowed by the macs to stretch out her hand, she yelled: "Yes, Bill, Bill! Vote Clinton '96". And an American network camera crew caught every word of it.