Major's US mission survives television ordeal: David Usborne, in Washington, saw the Prime Minister confront the media after talks with Bill Clinton

HAD THE Prime Minister been spied jogging with President Bill Clinton yesterday morning, we would have known for sure that they had hit it off, both personally and politically. But John Major is not the type, and instead he spent the early hours doing the rounds of the breakfast television shows.

He did not even have to move far for that. The four American networks were all obliged to set up their mini interview sets side-by-side in the ballroom of a downtown hotel, receiving the Prime Minister one after another for two minutes each. The order had been agreed in advance - CBS first, CNN last.

Mr Major's mission on the air remained what it had been throughout the visit: to dispel the impression that the arrival of a Democrat in the White House might mean disaster for the 'special relationship' with Britain or that Mr Clinton himself held any grudge over the role played by Conservative Party officials in the US election or British snooping into his personal files.

And in the end he was able to make the case with reasonable ease. On Wednesday, Mr Clinton had gone out of his way to assert that all was well between America and Britain, readily adopting the 'special relationship' cliche. It would remain special, he said, 'for as long as I'm sitting here in this office'.

For his part, Mr Major said yesterday that his talks with the new President 'could not have been more natural and easy'.

And on substance, though nothing of any great import had been decided, minds had apparently met on several issues. The Prime Minister and his aides seemed genuinely reassured that on trade, the Clinton administration was not, as many politicians in Europe have been fearing, tending towards protectionism and would buckle down to overcome the deadlock in the world trade negotiations.

Mr Clinton's plans for an American air-drop of supplies over eastern Bosnia drew praise from Mr Major, even if it only became more convincing as the visit wore on.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said such an initiative would be 'imaginative'; by yesterday he was terming it 'bold'. And he denied he was worried over possible reprisals against British forces there.

Moreover, there was generous encouragement from Mr Major for the President's recently unveiled economic programme to tackle the US deficit. Given the tax increases involved this was a little ironic coming from the Conservative leader. But, he said, the proposals are 'very welcome indeed'.

The visit was not friction-free, however. The Prime Minister was on the defensive throughout over allegations, levelled by senators and congressmen in letters to President Clinton, that Britain is guilty of human rights abuses in Northern Ireland and over Mr Clinton's pledge to send a peace envoy to the province. Details of the leaders' discussion on the issue were carefully guarded, but we know that in his talks with the Prime Minister, Mr Clinton was armed with a thick dossier detailing the alleged rights violations.

Mr Major argued repeatedly that the situation had changed dramatically in Ulster from 10 years ago and that the only way forward was through the continuing, though now stalled, political negotiations. 'I think he (Mr Clinton) accepts that,' he said. An envoy may still be sent, but as a fact- finder rather than a mediator.

There was also an unwelcome, and probably unexpected, feature of all yesterday morning's television shows: repeated questions to the Prime Minister about Britain's image here as a country in social and economic disintegration. Was the Royal Family in decline? How do you explain what happened to James Bulger in Liverpool (a case that has created deep interest in America)? What about recent opinion polls saying half of all Britons want to emigrate?

Reassuring America that Britain is still an attractive country is not something Mr Major or any recent Prime Minister has had to do here before. These perceptions were inaccurate, he said, placing blame for what malaise Britain may have on recession.

And then he observed: 'Six months ago people were saying the same thing about America.' That the American people had since felt moved to sack their leader was something he had apparently forgotten.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor