Romneyshambles: Mitt begins his trip with a swipe at London

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

US presidential candidate beats hasty retreat after comments on 'disconcerting' Games chaos

Mitt Romney made a distinctly undiplomatic first impression on Londoners yesterday, raising concerns about the city's handling of the Olympic Games before being forced into an embarrassing volte-face.

The Republican presidential hopeful's fundraising visit to Britain was meant to be a chance for the former Massachusetts Governor to display a foreign-affairs gravitas that would help to sell his claim to the White House.

But rather than flaunting his statesman-like credentials, Mr Romney managed to insult his hosts and commit that cardinal sin of US politics – "flip-flopping" – all within hours of landing in Britain. In unguarded and far-from-diplomatic language, Mr Romney initially questioned London's commitment and ability to stage the Games. In an interview with US television, he said he had noticed "disconcerting" signs that Team London was not ready. "It's hard to know how it will all turn out," he said.

Mr Romney's comments on Olympic organisation carry weight. As the capitalist guru who saved the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics from financial ruin, he can claim to know a thing or two about staging the world's biggest sporting event.

His comments prompted a sharp rebuke from David Cameron, who said: "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

But hours later, after a private one-to-one with Mr Cameron at No 10, Mr Romney appeared miraculously converted and predicted that London 2012 would be a "very successful" Olympics. In the summer sun in Downing Street, attempting to put the morning's mistakes behind him, Governor Romney focused on beach volleyball. "As I look out of the back side of 10 Downing Street [I] see a venue having been constructed. Knowing that athletes will be carrying out their activities almost in the backyard of the Prime Minister is really quite an accomplishment."

His U-turn apparently went unnoticed by Boris Johnson, however, who had his own retort to Mr Romney's doubts about London's readiness. Speaking in front of 60,000 people at a concert in Hyde Park to mark the end of the Olympic Torch relay, the Mayor of London shouted: "There are some people coming from around the world who don't yet know if we are ready."

"There's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we are ready. Are we ready? Yes, we are!"

Mr Romney's day of gaffes did not end there. After a meeting with Tony Blair in his Brook Street offices in Mayfair, he greeted Ed Miliband in his Commons office as "Mr Leader" – leading some to wonder whether he had forgotten the Labour leader's name. "My right honourable friend" would have been amusing, though "comrade" isn't in the Republican lexicon.

The Romney campaign may not judge London as a failure if the £75,000-a-plate fundraising dinner held last night in Mayfair delivers millions of dollars into the Republicans' coffers.

Raising big bucks for what is expected to be the most expensive bid for the White House in history means picking the pockets of rich Republicans who have high-wealth profiles in London's financial district.

Of those attending the private fund-raiser – where all were asked to bring their US passports to ensure compliance with US election rules – some are reported to have donation track records that go back to Ronald Reagan, John McCain, Dick Cheney, and both George Bush Snr and Jnr.

City rumours that the gaffe-punctuated day had reduced the plate-rate fee were dismissed by campaign insiders as "mischievous". Among the key co-hosts for a fundraising supper in Mayfair last night were: Eric Assimakopoulos, the founder and managing director of Revetas Capital Advisers; Scott Collins, from Summit Partners; and Dwight Poler, from Bain Capital Europe.

Karin Robinson, vice-chairwoman of the Democrats Abroad organisation, said: "These bankers are being asked to write cheques for Mitt Romney because they know that if he wins they get to write their own rules. These millionaires and billionaires… are being promised generous tax cuts while the rest of us are struggling."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before