Mitt Romney will be keen to forge a bond with Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, when the two men meet at Cameron’s official address, 10 Downing Street, this afternoon.
The Republican presidential candidate spoke before the meeting of his belief in the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain. But he will also be seeking to re-establish the close bond that once existed between the US Republicans and the United Kingdom's Conservative party, which Cameron leads.
This isn't Romney's first exchange with the British prime minister. The two talked during a visit made by Romney to London in 2011. But Cameron clearly has an affinity with President Barack Obama that Romney will be eager to emulate. During a visit to the US in March, Cameron spoke of Obama’s “moral authority,” describing him as “an ally, a partner, a friend.”
The British prime minister may take the opportunity of his meeting with Romney to achieve some balance in his dealings with the two US parties, say analysts. By welcoming Romney to his official residence and reawakening the friendship that existed between the US Republicans and the British Conservatives in the 1980s, Cameron will earn the approval of some of the more right-leaning members of the Conservative party, whose MPs span an unusually broad spectrum from left to right.
On social mores, Cameron probably shares more views with Obama than Romney. He is, for example, in favor of legalizing gay marriage and has said he supports the idea of gays being able to marry in church.
“It will be a difficult one for Cameron because his relations with Obama are still very good,” says John Dunabin, an expert on Anglo-American relations at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University. “He doesn’t want to blot his copy book either way.… Tony Blair [Britain’s former Labour prime minister] managed to have good relations with both Republican and Democratic presidents.”
He added that Romney had some strong links with some senior members of the Conservative party, “and he will no doubt want to play these up.”
While some Tories are outspoken fans of the Democrat party, another group of Conservative politicians has set up an organization to strengthen the links between Republicans and Tories called Atlantic Bridge.
Romney will also meet Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat party who is deputy prime minister within Britain’s coalition government. And Romney has already met with Mr. Blair and Ed Miliband, the head of the opposition Labour party.
A chance to look savvy abroad
The trip to London – which is followed by stops in Poland and Israel – is an important opportunity for Romney, a former one-term governor who is widely traveled but inexperienced on the world's political stage, to demonstrate he has a sophisticated handle on foreign affairs.
That did not get off to the best start yesterday after an unnamed advisor reportedly told the Daily Telegraph that Romney had a better understanding of the countries’ “Anglo-Saxon heritage" than the White House. US Vice President Joe Biden called the remarks "disturbing."
“I don't know agree with whoever that advisor might be. But do agree that we have a very common bond between ourselves and Great Britain," Romney told NBC.
Arriving on the eve of the Olympics Games, which kicks off in the capital on Friday, Romney is also taking the opportunity to highlight his successful management of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Again, tact was not at the fore.
"It's hard to know just how well it will turn out," he told NBC News from London. "There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials – that obviously is not something which is encouraging."
With less than four months to go until the US elections, Romney is also expected to hold top dollar fundraising events to which he will invite members of London’s expat American community.
Some MPs have complained that American employees at Barclays in London have spent too much time fundraising for Romney’s election campaign when they should be working to bolster confidence in the scandal-hit banking system.
“This visit is important in terms of getting both funding and votes from Americans living overseas,” says Christine Harlen, an American expert in US politics and the international political economy at the University of Leeds. “It’s a very close race and the overseas vote is an important one – in the UK and also in Israel.”