The Sketch: Grandson of an army cook and the King of Westminster

Start as you mean to go on. The President's press conference gave us a very steady operation of the presidential crank handle. He's got a nice voice so he gets away with a lot – but you really have to be interested if you want to follow what he's saying. "If I could make a further observation about your second question..."

It's possible to be glamorised by the presence, the power, the wife, the cars, the nuclear codes and battle fleets he has at his beck. But he certainly lets us know his time is more important than everyone else's. The two hours that 1,100 people waited for him in Westminster Hall – that productivity loss is going to show up in the GDP figures this quarter.

That wouldn't have mattered if he was going to knock our socks off. Maybe you went home sockless. You must have taken them off yourself. He has the reputation of an orator, specialising in hope and change. After a fine start (his predecessors in this hall had been "the Pope, the Queen and Nelson Mandela. That's either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke".) he gave us a speech as exciting as Evensong without the singing. He told us that "Tolerance and self-determination leads to peace and dignity." Two hours we waited to hear that tolerance leads to dignity. And that we were united by our ideals not divided by our differences. Speak for yourself, mush.

If immigrants came here and worked hard, he told us, they could sing "God Save the Queen" like any other citizen. That's what he said.

"All nations share a common interest in an international architecture that maintains the peace." If that is worth more than the paper it's written on I'll give you a quid.

He had one terrific, welling-up line and it fired up the only applause of his speech. He said he had come as "the grandson of a cook in the British Army to stand before you as President of the United States."

It was those last five words that made the effect. The audience – little dogs to his Big Dog – loved it, him, the sudden thought that they too might be there one day because look – anything was possible. As he walked slowly out of the hall, something happened I've never seen before in England. As he stopped to chat here and there, applause broke out around him. The Queen doesn't get that. They were like courtiers applauding their monarch. It must have been like that for Louis XIV. Maybe we are the Ancien Régime. If so, never mind Obama's confidence that we are "indispensable" – there'll have to be a revolution.





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