By Ruth Sullivan
© The Financial Times Ltd 2014 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
By Salamander Davoudi
Many workers on their way into work in the City of London on the Circle line via South Kensington had decided to dress down but their briefcases ultimately gave them away. The London Underground was busier than normal at 7.30am.
There were no protesters visible at Liverpool Street station in the early morning but the vast majority of people getting off trains were not wearing suits.
Mary, a secretary in a bank said: ‘You wouldn’t catch me in a suit today. It’s frightening. The papers have said these people may get violent. But I don’t blame them.”
Andrew, a recruiter, said: “I don’t think city workers have dressed to blend with anarchists however the pin stripe count is down today and jeans and smart casual seem to be the order of the day.”
“My client has flown all the way from LA we were meant to meet in the City but now we have had to change our meeting venue. Wouldn’t it have been better if the G20 had met in the Isle of Man?”
Salamander Davoudi is the FT’s media correspondent
By Bob Sherwood
It feels like the calm before the storm at the Excel Centre today. The area is thronged with yellow-jacketed police and community support officers who are clearly on heightened alert but with hardly anyone to marshal. The FT’s photographer was stopped and searched twice by Met officers this morning as we garnered opinions about the G20 among the local community. At one point he was surrounded by five bicycle officers who wanted to see the images on his camera. Our credentials were checked over the police radio.
The front of the Excel Centre is already coned off and some roads are closed. Police vans and trucks, including the underwater and confined space search unit, are on pretty much every surrounding road. No protesters have arrived in the area yet, though.
Most locals seem bemused by the attention and are fearful of the disruption. They don’t quite know what to expect over the next couple of days, but most are not looking forward to it. Apart from Ayoub Mzee, who is walking around Custom House high street in a Barack Obama inauguration cap.
“The big chief is coming to my town,” he says excitedly.
Bob Sherwood is the FT’s London and south-east correspondent
Here in London, everybody is going G-20 crazy. Understandable, of course, since this is the biggest gathering of world leaders that has Britain has hosted for many years. But the G-20 is just the first leg of a four-stop tour by President Obama. First there is the London meeting, then the Nato summit in Strasbourg, then the US-EU meeting in Prague and then a two-day state visit to Turkey. In fact, my guess is that it will probably be a five-legged tour – with Obama going on to Afghanistan for a surprise vist, after Turkey.
The assumption here in London is that it is the G-20 meeting that matters most. But I think that could well be wrong. If you look at Obama’s four stops, I think the most important could well be Turkey.
The G-20 summit brings together the most high-powered group of leaders and is all about the economic crisis. But, as the FT reports today, the communique is already pre-cooked – and looks like it will be pretty meagre fare, with a boiler-plate call to resist protectionism as its centre-piece. There will be plenty of hoopla at the Nato summit. But, once again, the big decisions – in particular about Afghanistan – have already been taken elsewhere. Mr Obama is likely to enliven the US-EU summit by making a big speech on arms control. But whilst these occasions are always taken desperately seriously by the Europeans, they are not terribly important to the Americans who find them unwieldy and baffling.
So that leaves Turkey.
This is the one bit of the trip that it is very hard to script in advance – and the stakes are very high. Will Obama use his speech to the Turkish parliament to make the long-promised big statement on the relationship between the West and the Islamic world? Can he do anything to repair the damage in the US-Turkish relationship and turn around the desperate and dangerous unpopularity of the US there? What role might Turkey play over Iran or the Middle East peace process? How will the president address the issue of Armenia?
Congress is pushing for a resolution accusing Turkey of having committed genocide against the Armenians. Candidate Obama sounded sympathetic to the Armenian lobby. But President Obama will be desperate not to inflict any further damage on US-Turkish relations.
It is all very tricky and intriuging stuff.