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
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions