Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Saturday, 26 July 2008 15:40 UK

Obama whirlwind breezes into UK

By Adam Fleming
BBC News, political correspondent

Barack Obama in London
The media has captured every minute of Barack Obama's foreign tour

After the crowds that greeted him in Berlin, the British outbreak of Obama-mania was far more genteel.

Barack Obama's first meeting was with the former prime minister, Tony Blair, who arrived at the Democratic candidate's five-star hotel for an early breakfast.

Mr Blair was there to discuss his work as a Middle East envoy.

But some commentators have suggested this was the only photo opportunity that Obama really cared about because Mr Blair is the only British politician who is recognised in America.

Next stop was Downing Street. Senator Obama's black van entered through a side street because road works are blocking the main gate in Whitehall.

Star quality

Protocol demanded that Mr Obama got the same low-key treatment as Republican White House hopeful John McCain, who visited earlier this year.

That meant the only person for the Democratic Party candidate to glad-hand on the doorstep was a startled policeman.

A beaming Gordon Brown welcomed his guest into No 10's rose-garlanded terrace.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Senator Barack Obama in garden of 10 Downing Street, London
His meeting with Gordon Brown was a very British affair

The prime minister looked genuinely cheerful as he basked in the sunshine and the star power of the Democratic candidate.

The body language between the two men was surprisingly warm.

As they settled into wicker chairs, they shared cold drinks, a plate of chocolate biscuits and a discussion about foreign policy.

Then came an unexpected walkabout among the tourists in Horse Guards Parade.

Downing Street appeared to be pushing protocol to the limit - but officials said the two men simply wanted to enjoy the sunshine and that it was raining when Senator McCain visited.

Wise words

After two hours of talks, Mr Obama walked out into Downing Street to address the press alone.

Supporters could be heard chanting his name in the distance. He said his visit had been "terrific".

He praised the contribution of British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans would always have "deep affection" for Britain, he said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Senator Barack Obama in Horse Guards Parade, London
Better weather meant Mr Obama took a walk which Senator McCain could not

Asked if he had any advice to help Mr Brown out of his domestic political troubles, Mr Obama smiled and said: "You're always more popular before you're in charge of things.

"Once you're responsible you're going to make some people unhappy."

The would-be president then met the would-be prime minister, Conservative leader David Cameron, in Westminster. Outside, a crowd of supporters shouted: "We want change".

The Tory leader handed Mr Obama a copy of William Hague's biography of William Wilberforce and a box of CDs including Lily Allen and the Smiths albums.

He also offered a priceless photo op in front of Big Ben.




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