A Visitor From the States

Air Force One was an impressive sight. The customised Boeing 747 swooped down majestically and touched down on British soil, the first American aeroplane ever (legally!) to do so.

Nobody at RAF Brize Norton had seen anything like it before. A crowd of curious onlookers had gathered just outside the airbase. They cheered at the arrival of the strange craft. They cheered again when the doors opened and a very elegant African American lady in a black business suit emerged, smiled, waved and made her way majestically down the stairs. President Rice's bodyguards were not far behind, easily identifiable by their dark glasses and constant surveillance of the area.

To see an American President was half the delight for the people who'd congregated at Brize Norton. The other half was to see their own new Prime Minister. Lord Ashdown could be seen pulling up at that moment in his stately carriage.

The golden coach might have looked very elegant, with its gold-plated wooden carvings of grateful British subjects and its flaming red roof, but it was incredibly uncomfortable. The coach swung to and fro inducing vomit in more than one of its passengers. It was also incredibly slow: since the decision to replace the horses with an electric motor the coach had only, at best, been able to offer 8 miles per hour.

Lord Ashdown swept importantly past the uninvited spectators, trying to hold back the sick from the horrible journey. He hoped nobody saw him dive into the nearest lavatory to get the state coach out of his system. It wouldn't have been the done thing for a Prime Minister to be seen to use an RAF loo like that!

Condoleezza Rice was, fortunately, finding the tarmac unsuitable for her heels and was, anyway, enjoying milking the crowd for more attention. They were enjoying it, too - British politicians rarely smiled at the public. American ones were trained to do that from Day 1 - after all, in America, everywhere you went the suckers had a vote and it could be yours so you had to pretend to be pleased to see them even if you weren't.

There was a flushing sound followed by an echoing voice ("That's better - much better") and then Lord Ashdown emerged from one of the military buildings. He walked slowly towards the President wearing a long, formidable gown. It seemed to be tight around the neck, almost as though it were pulling him down in some way. She couldn't help noticing that he was making a clanking sound as he moved. That was odd, she thought. He's British, she reminded herself.

"Madam President," he said, bowing unsmilingly and kissing her hand.

"Prime Minister," she smiled.

"May I say what an honour it is to have the President of the United States here?"

The pleasanteries carried sickeningly on for a good ten minutes before the Prime Minister ushered the President through the building, past the gawping masses (why was she stopping to pose for their photographs?) and into the golden coach with his small coterie.

"You know what? We need to open the windows in here. Get a little air," said President Rice, leaning over the PM and opening one herself. He was stunned. Whatever it smelled like his upbringing was that you never passed comment on a thing like that, let alone acted on impulse like that. These uncouth Americans... no, that was Tory speak. He was a Whig. He must learn to respect these people, however strange their customs.

"You really need to take this thing in for servicing, Paddy," said the President. "The suspension has totally gone on it."

Lord Ashdown felt that his guest must be the first person in history to ride in the golden coach and then speak about it as though it were a broken-down Mini and he didn't appreciate it.

Next she said that she needed to get off as she was feeling unwell. "So's everybody else," thought the Prime Minister, "but you don't hear them bleating about it."

Being a gentleman, Lord Ashdown put on his most gracious smile and agreed for them to park the carriage and find a coffee house nearby to have their discussion. That was the first thing she'd said that he'd agreed with: but then again President Rice was also a Whig. Their party had evolved slightly differently in America but at root it was the same organisation. They were reminded of it at moments like this: Whigs conspired against Democrats in coffee houses in America, just as they conspired against Tories in coffee houses in Britain. In both countries their adversaries seemed more partial to chocolate and tea for some reason and so rarely went into coffee houses.

One of Lord Ashdown's helpers discovered a nice little Oxfordshire coffee house where they served 27 varieties of coffee as well, more importantly, as real ale on tap and a plethora of Italian wines. The party proceeded to go there, much to the everlasting delight of the landlord.

"Let's cut to the chase here, Paddy," said President Rice an hour later. "You're asking us to break our ties with the Kaiser? No way. Germany and America go way back. No: you don't come between us, Paddy. No."

"But I have evidence," said the Prime Minister, "that there is a link between the Jewish fundamentalists and Germany."

"I'd need to see that evidence," said President Rice. "The way I understand it the Germans hate the fundamentalists and they hate the Germans. Why would they work together?"

"We have evidence, Madam President, which I will gladly share with you, which shows that over 90% of fundamentalist activity comes from Germany with, and there's no doubt about this, the Kaiser's support."

Condoleezza Rice was obviously not falling for this one thought Lord Ashdown. Time for another tack.

"They have weapons of mass destruction which are capable of reaching Britain in 45 minutes. They can reach the Unites States within a similar time frame."

She shook her head slowly. No - didn't like that one. OK, the politician's last gamble: he reached into his ridiculously large clanking pockets and produced three bottles of champagne.

"You know what - I don't drink," she said.

Lord Ashdown tried to cover up his shock.

One of the Senior Whigs who'd accompanied the PM had been to Mr. Portillo's and Miss Abbott's wedding the previous day and had overeaten himself disgracefully. He let out a tremendous fart. The PM ignored this. Something was very clearly annoying the President for her face had become a mask of horror. Lord Ashdown wondered what had happened. Yet again his extraordinary guest forgot herself as she started to tell the wedding-goer what she thought:

"Back home in America you'd be asked to leave the room. We wouldn't let you in until you'd learnt some manners," she told the gas-releaser. ("Like you, you mean?" thought the Prime Minister.)

No farting? No drinking? They probably didn't even get hit on the head by their equivalent of Black Rod. Did anything amuse these miserable people?

Lord Ashdown sighed. Clearly his discussions with the President had foundered. Now he was no longer trying to impress her they might as well relax and enjoy their coffee and their... well, in her case, more coffee... in an enjoyable manner.

They got to chatting about Germany and what they thought of it. Lord Ashdown happened to mention that they'd found huge oil reserves near Nienhagen. He'd just been making chit-chat but thank goodness he had - immediately Condoleezza's eyes lit up. "Oil?" she said. "Why didn't you tell me there was oil in Germany? So, when d'you want to get this war started?"

The End

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