Michelle Obama flies in for secret sight-seeing trip

When Michelle Obama, America's First Lady, gets back to the White House she will be able to say that she went to London and all she got was a lousy pamphlet with a colour photograph of Michael Martin on the front cover.

Her visit yesterday was kept strictly private. Neither the Commons authorities, nor the Foreign Office, nor the US Embassy would even admit that she was in town.

She and her daughters might have passed through London unnoticed altogether if it had not been for those sharp eyed people who hang about at Stansted airport to see if anyone famous is passing through, and the even more sharp-eyed photographers who camp outside the House of Commons.

She was seen arriving at Stansted Airport in Essex, in a Boeing 747 American Air Force jet at around 11am yesterday, with her daughters, Malia, aged 10, and Sasha, who was eight on Sunday. The three had been in France over the weekend, where Barack Obama took part in a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Their arrival at Stansted was strictly low key, without the red carpet and other fanfare that accompanied the President's visit for the G20 summit in April.

Later, they were spotted leaving the House of Commons by car. In the back of the car was the souvenir programme with the photograph of the first Speaker to be sacked in over 300 years. Mr Martin will officially stand down in two weeks' time. A little while earlier, there had been a sudden flurry as security men crowded around the door to a staircase that leads up to Big Ben, suggesting that Mrs Obama had taken her girls up to see the worlds' most famous bell, which was 150 years old on 31 May.

Finally, she was spotted going in and out of 10 Downing Street. Officials there confirmed that she had had a private meeting with the Prime Minister's wife, Sarah Brown, but said that she did not meet the Prime Minister.

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