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?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission, Benefits, OTE £100k: SThree: ...

Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine