David Cameron risks diplomatic row with Barack Obama by meeting Mitt Romney at Downing Street this week

 

David Cameron is to risk a diplomatic row with Barack Obama by greeting his presidential rival Mitt Romney in Downing Street this week.

The Republican candidate will receive the VIP treatment on Thursday despite the Prime Minister’s normal practice of not meeting candidates in foreign elections.

Mr Cameron refused to meet François Hollande ahead of the French elections – an omission that was widely seen as a snub and has been a source of tension between London and Paris in recent weeks.

Downing Street seems determined not to make the same mistake this time, particularly as Mr Romney has been narrowing President Obama’s lead in the polls.

He will meet Mr Cameron on Thursday, although it is not yet clear whether the two men will pose for pictures on the famous doorstep.

Mr Romney is coming to London to raise campaign funds for the election in November and to canvass support among the city’s American community.

He will attend the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, allowing his campaign team to remind American voters of his success in rescuing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City from financial disaster.

Equally importantly he is using the visit – which will also include meetings with Nick Clegg, George Osborne, Ed Miliband and Tony Blair – to project himself as a world leader-in-waiting. Mr Romney will fly to Poland and Israel after Britain.

The Prime Minister’s official position is that “as a general rule” he does not meet election candidates.

Today the US embassy in London said it had played no part in organising the visit. But a spokeswoman added: “In most years the presidential candidates have met the Prime Minister and other members of the UK government.”

The latest three polls all put Mr Obama and Mr Romney within one point of each other. Surveys show the President’s popularity is being dragged down by the weak US economy, with large numbers of voters also complaining he has failed to live up to his promise four years ago to deliver change for the better.

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