As Barack Obama is inaugurated again, shouldn't we Brits be feeling a little embarrassed by all this?

It is a huge public affirmation of everything Americans and citizens of democratic countries value above all else. It is utterly inspiring. How does a coronation compare?

Getting a sense of de ja vu, watching events in DC? The national holiday, the flag waving, the gathering of vast crowds. Lucky them. Over there, they get to do this every four years. We have to wait whole decades or more for our version. For either a monarch's reign to have reached a round number of years, or - even rarer - the occasion where one of her heirs does us all the kindness of letting the TV cameras in on what should be the intensely private affair of his wedding day.

The Presidential Inauguration (and I was lucky enough to be there four years ago), is far more than a celebration of the man taking the oath. It is a huge public affirmation of everything Americans, and citizens of democratic countries value above all else. It is utterly inspiring.

Compare it to an inauguration in this country. The news copters hovering suspiciously above the palace, the Prime Ministerial car parked outside, the newly elected leader politely asking permission to form a government, in a ceremony us, the voters, will never be allowed to see or hear.

Americans have their parallels of this, too. When their equivalent of a royal wedding, the marriage of Chelsea Clinton, took place two years ago, the little town of Rhinebeck in upstate New York was subject to a one hundred mile exclusion zone.

Weddings in private. Democracy in public. How did we ever get it so wrong?

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