When US presidents and UK prime ministers met for the first time – from hand-holding to ‘political soulmates’

By The Independent (World News) | Created at 2024-07-10 13:55:39 | Updated at 2024-07-21 18:59:27 1 week ago
Truth

Donate

Your contribution helps us continue our mission of providing you with uncensored news for free. Your generosity enables us to maintain and improve our website and platforms, ensuring they remain accessible to all users worldwide. Donate with cryptocurrency to DevEvil News and join us in providing uncensored news to everyone. Every contribution, no matter how small, makes a significant difference in our ability to create and deliver news/articles to our global community.

Donate us by clicking here

View from Westminster

Sign up for the View from Westminster email for expert analysis straight to your inbox

Get our free View from Westminster email

When US president Joe Biden spoke to Sir Keir Starmer on the telephone following his UK election victory, he referenced the “special relationship” between the two countries – and now the prime minister is in Washington DC to cement that bond.

It is a relationship between nations that is embodied by that between the two leaders, and getting off on the right foot can be important.

President Biden is hosting Sir Keir at the White House as Nato leaders gather in Washington for the alliance’s 75th anniversary. He plans to “underscore the importance of continuing to strengthen the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom”, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Here is how first meetings between premiers have gone in recent times.

When Theresa May met Donald Trump

Theresa May holding hands with Donald Trump

Theresa May holding hands with Donald Trump (Getty)

When former prime minister Theresa May went to meet Donald Trump, it is likely she didn’t expect to have to call her husband, Philip, to warn him that images of her holding hands with the US president were imminent.

“He held her hand going through the colonnades, which took us all by surprise, and as it turns out, took Theresa by surprise,” Fiona McLeod Hill, the former joint chief of staff at No 10, told documentary maker Norma Percy.

The former PM revealed she was puzzled by his gesture, and admitted she doesn't know what pushed him to do it.

The pair first met in January 2017, and Ms May was the first foreign leader to meet Trump after his inauguration.

According to a book published by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, Mr Trump asked Ms May: “Why isn’t Boris Johnson the prime minister? Didn’t he want the job?”

Ms Haberman noted that “for May, getting Trump to focus on any issue was impossible”.

Gordon Brown and Barack Obama

Gordon Brown at Barack Obama first met on 3 March 2009

Gordon Brown at Barack Obama first met on 3 March 2009 (PA)

Barack Obama’s first term came towards the end of Gordon Brown’s premiership.

The pair met at a time of economic turmoil, shortly after the global financial crisis gripped the world.

In March 2009, Downing Street proudly boasted that Mr Brown was the first European leader President Obama had met.

The then US president insisted that the UK was one of America's "closest and strongest allies" and vowed to work with Mr Brown to revive the world economy and assist each other with issues on national security.

Tony Blair and George W Bush

Tony Blair and George W Bush first met on 23 February 2001

Tony Blair and George W Bush first met on 23 February 2001 (AFP via Getty Images)

Tony Blair and George Bush’s first meeting came just months before the 9/11 attack – an event that would come to define UK and US relations.

Mr Bush praised the "wisdom" and "strategic thinking" of Mr Blair in their first meeting in his book Decision Points.

In February 2001, the pair met at Camp David, the US president’s official retreat.

The former president dubbed Mr Blair “a pretty charming guy”, saying: “He put the charm offensive on me – and it worked."

When a reporter asked whether the two men had forged a personal bond, Mr Bush announced: “Well, we both use Colgate toothpaste.”

Mr Blair quipped: “They are going to wonder how you know that George.”

John Major and Bill Clinton

John Major and Bill Clinton first met on 24 February 1993

John Major and Bill Clinton first met on 24 February 1993 (AFP via Getty Images)

The first encounter between John Major and Bill Clinton was just a month after the president's inauguration in February 1993.

The relationship when they were both in power never really developed and they fell out when the US issued a visa to Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and during the “devil’s brew” of the Bosnian war.

Soon after Mr Clinton was elected, the prime minister gave him a tie in the colours of University College, Oxford, which the president had attended as a postgraduate student.

Margaret Thatcher and George H W Bush

Margaret Thatcher and George H W Bush first met on 7 November 1988

Margaret Thatcher and George H W Bush first met on 7 November 1988 (AFP via Getty Images)

Margaret Thatcher and President-elect George H W Bush's first official meeting took place during her trip to Washington in November 1988.

The diplomatic relationship between the pair was dominated by US troops invading Iraq and the dying days of the Soviet Union.

Mrs Thatcher had been in power for 10 years by the time Mr Bush was elected, and had a famously warm relationship with his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.

“My first impression: Margaret [is] principled, very difficult... She’s a principled woman, and a good friend of the States, but she talks all the time when you’re in a conversation. It’s a one-way street,” he wrote after the first meeting, according to his biography Destiny and Power.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan first met on 25 February 1981

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan first met on 25 February 1981 (Getty Images)

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan first met when he was governor of California and she was leader of the opposition.

Their first official meeting as premiers came a month into his presidency, in February 1981.

Ms Thatcher and former President Ronald Reagan were, in the words of one close aide, “political soulmates”.

She said at his 2004 funeral that “we have lost a great president, a great American and a great man”, adding: “And I have lost a dear friend.”

Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower

Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower first met in January 1953

Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower first met in January 1953 (Getty Images)

Looking back further, the friendship between Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower stretched from the beginning of 1942 to Mr Churchill's death in 1965.

They first met in January 1953 at the apartment of Bernard Baruch, a wealthy businessman.

The pair came from very different backgrounds: Mr Eisenhower, was born in a shack beside the railway tracks in rural Texas, and Mr Churchill, a British aristocrat, born in Blenheim Palace.

Their relationship was characterised by the Second World War, and they often disagreed about issues around Germany.

Read Entire Article