Obama-mania Grips London Ahead Of G20

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[Global News: United Kingdom]

Many Londoners will call in sick on April 1, "Fools Day," in an attempt to catch a glimpse of US President Barack Obama on his way to Buckingham Palace for a meeting with the British monarch, during his visit here.

In an unprecedented move, Queen Elizabeth II will give an audience to President Obama and his wife Michelle when they travel to Europe for the first time since Obama won the American presidency. Visiting heads of state normally get an audience with the Queen when they are on a state visit. But sources close to 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister, say the Queen is keen to meet America’s first African American president.

The world of fashion is also beaming with pleasure, waiting to see what latest design the First Lady will use for the dinner with the Queen. Mrs. Obama has become a fashion icon as leading label designers trod on each other’s toes to see who she uses during what is expected to be many world tours. While President Obama is considered among the coolest dresser, no one has pointed out the fact that he is yet to be seen wearing cuff-links, a sign of affluence amongst most elite gentlemen today.

Also being watched closely is what type of gifts the Obamas will bring for the Queen. There has been a lot of criticism here in British media over the gifts America’s First Couple recently gave to Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister and his wife when they visited Washington.

Mr. Obama gave Prime Minister Brown a set of 25 American classic films that some critics said could have been easily bought from Wal-Mart for five dollars. Michelle’s gifts to the two sons of Mr. Brown, a Marine One helicopter model, also received severe criticism, with some claiming these were easily available for around $25 at any supermarket in the US.

President Obama and his wife are set to arrive in London on March 31. Instead of landing at Britain’s major airport, Heathrow, the Obamas will instead land at Stansted Airport, in Essex, about 80 miles north of London. They will then be flown to London on Marine One which will land at the residence of the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James which is set in the grounds of Regents Park in Central London. This arrangement has been necessary to avoid the heavy traffic that will be at Heathrow as several Heads of State arrive in London to attend the 2009 G20 summit.

But while the world is still reeling from the economic downturn that has seen record home foreclosures amongst many families in the West, members of the G20, a group established in 1999 to "bring together systematically important industrialized countries and developing economies to discuss key issues in the global economy", will be tacking into expensive caviar, $1,000 per bottle of vintage wine and champagne, at a tune of almost US$70 million in an event that will last only one day.

While this group is called the G20, it has 19 listed members, which are:- Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The 20th member happens to be the European Union (EU) of which three of the first 19 members, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, are already G20 members.
Thirty five world leaders are said to have accepted invitations to attend the April 2 summit. These include 10 regional and financial chiefs, among who will be the current Chairman of the African Union, Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya as well as chairmen of Asian and European groups of countries.

Prime Minister Brown, still reveling from having become the first European leader to be hosted by the Obama, will revel in the fact that he will become, once again, the first European leader to host President Obama.

To the layman, these may be simple things but to European politics they mean a lot. However, the world leader most happy with himself must be Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso who beat all world leaders to become the first to be invited to Washington by President Obama. Since then, he has worn a permanent smile.

Despite the fact that world leaders will be spending almost US$70 million to dine themselves during the summit; it is doubtful whether any meaningful outcome will be reached in terms of the credit crunch that has hit the Western world. British Europe Minister Caroline Flint is quoted by The Times of London as having said: "The costs of having the summit are far outweighed by the risks involved in not having it at all."

A poll recently taken by the same newspaper says; "one in 20 voters has a ‘great deal of confidence’ that the G20 will help economic recovery. It is 20-1 they will be disappointed." Its Financial Reporter, David Wighton, adds: "…there is unlikely to be a consensus on anything other than the broadest principles. The Americans are still undecided about how to reform financial regulation in the US, let alone internationally."

Prime Minister Brown is heavily banking on the success of the summit, which will be fully covered by The Black Star News.

Brown says it must forge "a global new deal" that co-ordinates financial regulation and economic policies that reform global financial institutions. But his Foreign Office Minister responsible for next month’s meeting, Lord Malloch Brown, has warned there would be "disastrous financial consequences" were the summit to fail.

President Obama refuses to endorse Mr. Brown’s "global new deal"; the US is said to want to focus more on fiscal stimulus policies. But financial regulation is what Europe seems to prefer. Brown’s aides believe the success of the London G20 summit could help him curtail a drop in poll standings where the opposition Conservative Party led by David Cameron has had a commanding lead for the last six months. There is less than two years for Britons to go to polls.

Please forward the article to other readers. Post your remarks on the comments section or e-mail milton@blackstarnews.com

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