We have just heard that John McCain, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has pulled out of a planned meeting with Gordon Brown on Friday. As this was only announced by the prime minister’s spokesman this morning, it is bound to cause some embarrassment at No 10.
People are inevitably going to speculate about whether the prime minister is worth seeing. But we suspect the real reason for the cancellation has less to do with Mr McCain’s willingness to shoot the breeze with Mr Brown, and more to do with Super Tuesday. Had Mr McCain’s main rivals dropped out, he would have had the time and space to hobnob with the statesmen of Europe. But with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee clinging on, it may look somewhat presumptive to leave the US on a overseas jaunt.
This is a reasonable excuse. But it does not explain why the trip was announced in the first place. The prime minister’s spokesman told journalists about the trip at about 11am this morning, which is about 6am on the US East coast. It is possible that No 10 were chatting to McCain aides in the early hours of the morning, after the primary results were in, about whether to tell the world’s press about the visit. A more likely scenario is that the trip was arranged some time ago, and Downing Street jumped the gun on the announcement.
One politician who will be relieved by this bungle is David Cameron. To the obvious consternation of some of his aides, the Straight Talk Express was passing through London without stopping for the Tory party leader.