Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Obama vs Clegg, Cameron & Brown

Barack Obama and family celebrate victory

Britain's political leaders are naturally keen to be seen as Barack Obama's political soulmate - but can any of them truly compare to the US President-elect? How do they measure up? Read Brian Wheeler's view - and send us your verdict.


Barack Obama: Was against the Iraq war from the start and backs phased withdrawal of troops. He wants a "surge" in troops in Afghanistan and is open to negotiations with Iran. But it was the economy that defined his Presidential campaign. Plans targeted tax cuts for low and middle income families. Scrap Bush tax cuts for better-off households. Wants to reform healthcare and renegotiate free trade deals.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown: Backed the Iraq war but, like Obama, now favours phased withdrawal. Potential flashpoints include Obama's call for more troops for Afghanistan and negotiations with Iran. Brown claims to be in tune with Obama on reform of global financial institutions and the need for further "fiscal stimulus", although it remains to be seen if he will copy Obama's tax cuts for middle income families. Free trade also remains a potential sticking point. Brown's warnings about the dangers of protectionism could be at odds with Obama's pledge to protect US jobs. Shares similar policy on climate change.

David Cameron
David Cameron: Differs from Obama over the issue of tax cuts funded by increased government borrowing. Also appears less enthusiastic than the President-elect on negotiations with Iran but shares commitment to troop withdrawal from Iraq and renewed focus on Afghanistan. Has also urged end to Bush era "neo-Conservative" foreign policies and continues to emphasise civil liberties and the green agenda - both key Obama policy objectives.

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg: In tune with Obama on tax cuts for the lower and middle income groups and tax increases for high earners. The only one of the three to share the President-elect's opposition to Iraq war at the time. And agrees now on need for timetable for withdrawal. Arguably less hawkish than Brown and Cameron on negotiations with Iran and shares a similar immigration policy to Obama - favouring earned citizenship for illegal migrants or, as critics prefer, an "amnesty". But like the other two UK party leaders, would probably clash with Obama on free trade and protectionism.


Obama: Obama's soaring, inspirational rhetoric, with its echoes of JFK, was a major factor in his campaign. The huge crowds gathering to hear him prove that oratory still has power in a soundbite age. His victory address in Chicago was rated by some pundits as one to live on in political history.

Gordon Brown
Brown: A keen student of JFK-era US politics but could hardly claim to be in the same league as JFK or Obama when it comes to magical oratory. Critics have accused him of bludgeoning his audience with "tractor statistics" in the manner of an old Soviet leader - but he remains brutally effective in front of a partisan crowd - with some memorable Labour conference addresses during years gone by. His no-frills style is seen by some as matching the new age of economic gloom.

David Cameron
Cameron: Lacks the 'stadium rock' flourishes of Obama at his best, favouring a more conversational style. But he is a highly polished, engaging performer who started the fad in British politics for speaking without notes. His 2005 speech to the Conservative conference wooed the audience with its optimistic tone and effectively won him the party leadership. It is already the stuff of British political legend.

Nick Clegg
Clegg: Sometimes accused of being Cameron-lite - a tag he hates - Clegg is starting to find his voice as an orator, although even his most ardent admirers would not put him in the same league as Obama. Gave a decent performance at this year's party conference, but it is hard to think of an occasion when he has rallied or moved an audience to the extent Brown, Cameron and Obama have done.


Obama: Charismatic and relaxed, "no drama Obama" always kept his cool during TV debates, unlike opponent John McCain. Confidence can tip over into cockiness, critics say, and the occasional gaffe on the campaign trail - such as his disastrous attempt to prove his "regular guy" credentials by going 10-pin bowling - helped keep his feet on the ground.

Gordon Brown
Brown: Often appears ill-at-ease on the breakfast TV sofa, Brown has never professed to be an exponent of personality politics and has hardly enhanced his standing with occasional forays into that area. The catchphrase "serious man for serious times" appears to have brought an end to attempts to polish his image as his spin doctors try to turn what has been seen as a weakness to his advantage.

David Cameron
Cameron: Cameron scores highly here. Relaxed and affable on chat shows - even in the face of provocation from the likes of Jonathan Ross. Master of the well-staged picture opportunity, such as the footage of him in the Arctic or relaxing on holiday with wife Samantha. Not above inviting TV cameras into his home to film his children - prompting Labour claims he is exploiting them.

Nick Clegg
Clegg: A "nice young man" in the Cameron mould, Clegg is a confident and articulate, if occasionally gaffe-prone, TV performer. Famously lost his cool during the Lib Dem leadership contest during a TV clash with rival Chris Huhne.

Obama: The first black US president is the son of a Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas. Obama had an unsettled childhood, following his parents' divorce. He lived briefly in Indonesia before moving back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. Studied political science at Colombia University and the spent three years as a community organiser in Chicago. Attended Harvard Law School before returning to Chicago to practise civil rights law. He served in the Illinois state senate from 1996 to 2004.

Gordon Brown
Brown: Like Obama, Brown is an academic and something of an intellectual on the quiet. He has also made much of the influence of his family on his politics - in particular his Church of Scotland minister father - but that is probably where the similarity ends. Brown came from a stable, close-knit family. He was "fast-tracked" through his local state school and dominated student politics at Edinburgh University before rising rapidly through the Scottish Labour ranks, via brief pit stops as a college lecturer and TV producer. Spent more than two decades as "a future Labour leader".

David Cameron
David Cameron: With his archetypal upper class English background - Eton and Oxford - Cameron's upbringing was far removed from that of Obama. But there are similarities in their political careers. Both men shot to national prominence seemingly from nowhere on the strength of a single speech - in Cameron's case his 2005 Blackpool speech, in Obama's his address to the Democratic National Convention a year earlier.

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg: Like Cameron, Clegg's education at the top Westminster private school and Cambridge, has little in common with Obama. But Clegg has a more colourful back story than Brown or Cameron - his father is half Russian and his Dutch mother was imprisoned by the Japanese during the war - and he is the only one of the three British leaders to have spent time in the US, where he was an intern on a left-wing magazine.


Obama: Married to a lawyer, Michelle, with two young daughters, Malia and Sasha. Obama's family are a big part of his political brand and often appeared on stage with him at rallies. His close bond with Michelle has been the subject of much glowing press coverage, with one commentator recently claiming they "they present the most collaborative, romantic, intelligent and relaxed couple that has ever been anywhere near the White House".

Sarah and Gordon Brown
Brown: Married to Sarah, a former PR chief, and has two young sons, John and Fraser, who has Cystic Fibrosis. Guards the privacy of his children, but Sarah has emerged from the shadows in recent months to lend some much-needed warmth to her man's public image. Her surprise appearance at this year's Labour conference eclipsed Mr Brown's big comeback speech on many front pages.

Samantha and David Cameron
Cameron: Married to Samantha, creative director at upmarket stationers Smythson, with three young children Arthur, Nancy and Ivan, who is profoundly disabled. From the moment he appeared on his Webcameron site doing the washing up, Cameron's "family man" image has been a major part of his appeal to voters. Wife Sam has gained many admiring column inches since first coming to public notice when joining Cameron on stage, pregnant, at the end of that famous leadership bid speech.

Miriam and Nick Clegg
Clegg: Married to Spanish lawyer Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, with two young sons, Antonio and Alberto, and a third child due in February. Family is a big part of the Clegg brand and although Miriam tends to stay out of the spotlight, her appearance at his side at this year's party conference prompted the Daily Mail to say she "exuded the kind of glamour more readily associated with that other famous political spouse - Carla Bruni".

Which of the three British political leaders do you think most resembles Obama? Do any of them? Is it a fair comparison? Here are some of your comments.

David Cameron clearly.
samuel geuter, worcester

For sincerity and being a grounded politician who shares the same values, it has to be Gordon Brown.
Val Daniels, Mijas Costa Spain

Brown's intellect in slightly greater measures+ Cameron's appeal in much greater measure + Clegg's more left-wing leanings = Obama

I will choose Brown because of their modest background and the fact that they are both on the left side of politics- However it is difficult ot rule out Cameron as he veers more and more towards the left and is adopting inclusive types of policies
iba, London UK

Based on policy and backgroud, then Clegg definitely scores higher than the other two. Cameroon is a toff, Brown is out-of-date. Furthermore, the LibDems are the only truely liberal progressive party in this country.
Zach, London

Obama has no policy, but a flourishing oratory... sounds like Tony Blair to me. just hope he gets to grip with government, unlike Blair, before he leaves office and delivers something more positive than a legacy of soundbites and war.
Gary Riding, brighton

In my opinion neither of the trio have any in 'common' with Obama, they all had a good life from the start and Obama has risen through the ranks so to speak. The trouble is that neither of the three have any real character, they just put it on as if it's a pantomime. Obama like many other, if not all, Presidents of the US have real enthusiasm. Cameron and Clegg would have the best shot i feel at having some connection with him, but as the Lib Dems are never going to get into power it'll have to be Cameron. I think Brown will try his utmost, but i think with Obama it is inevitable that there will be a growing distance between the US and Britain as i think this bonding of the two nations has become a bit sickly not just for Britain but for America, and Obama will favour the publics opinion with this, additionally the protectionism idea is going to add to this distance if we're not in on the deal.
Stephen Moxon, Didcot, England

As much as people hate to admit it, Obama is most like Blair. Smooth and polished, and the ability to bring people along with his plans for change.

I don't care.
Liam, Woking

I have to say that Obama has characteristics of all three. The charisma of David Cameron, educated in the way Gordon Brown was and similar policies to Nick Clegg. Howver i have to say the similarites are most profound between Nick Clegg and Barack Obama. Due to our political system being adversarial, it seems that the HM government and HM Opposition are just 'at each others throats' Whereas the Liberal democrats tend to stay out of the 'bickering'. In the run-up to the American presidential election, John McCain had a very similar approach to politics as we do in the UK. He critisiced Obama, quite personally at times, on his demeanor, policies and views. Just as the Labour V. Conservatives. However, Barack Obama stayed graceful and took the comments on the chin. He never lowered himself to having to comment on John McCain personally. Just as Nick Clegg has this manner as not to go into the adversarial politics between Labour and Conservative.
Martha, Wakefield!

I would have to say Gordon Brown. Both Obama and Brown are centre-left, progressive politicans, with simular values and ideals.
Geraint, Aberystwyth, Wales

I think mostly like brown in his leftwing leanings, and his commitment to those on the lowest income rather than the big city bankers represented by cameron. I think in foreign policy there is some divergence though and none of the parties match up. I think obamas convictions and ideals and intellect are in browns camp, they are both highly educated men. i think only to a degree of presentation is cameron like obama
alex, Leeds

The idea that Obama is anything like Cameron is obviously nonsense- Cameron is a right-winger who backed the war, is a favourite of the City and is very far from being a progressive. The Lib-Lab divide is a lot more like the Obama-Hillary one. Most Labour types were Hillary fans- Obama's bottom-up politics rather than machine politics and the fact that Obama stood on principle against the war whereas Labour backed Bush to the hilt- means that Nick Clegg is most like Obama.
Simon, London

Cameron, just, Clegg a close second. A telegenic leader who rather than equivocating is merely reasonable rather than pandering to people's whims. I.e. "to say we must do X is a little extreme but Y would be a good idea because..." Obama does the same.

Cameron is almost identical policy-wise with the slight exception of probably being a little more free-market so long as the regulation is right.

I'm sure Brown's a highly intelligent man, possibly more so than all of them, but I get the feeling he perhaps sees more than one side to every arguement and it impinges on his decisiveness. He doesn't inspire confidence and the Labour party is worn out.
TF, Leicester

In terms of policy, I think Obama does follow in Blair's footsteps, but in terms of charisma and nature he seems to follow Cameron.

Brown has no idea how to hold himself and is never calm and collected during debate whereas Obama and Cameron always seem to be.
Kate, London

Definitely Gordon Brown, all David Cameron would do is look after the rich, which Obama clearly does not want to do.
Daniel, Manchester, UK

Unfortunately I think it has to be Cleggy. I say unfortunately, because he has flip all chance of getting elected PM.

Everyone who claims the first 2 is in for a big shock or they are clutching at straws. You couldn't find 2 bigger new right-ists if you tried! Obama like? Only if Obama becomes everything we fear, and nothing that we hoped.
Jack Brindelli, Great Yarmouth


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