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Monday, May 23, 2011

What the Queen could teach the Obamas

I note that Michelle Obama is due to visit the school across the road from the office again. When she first came, soon after they moved into the White House, hundreds of local people waited patiently at the top of Chapel Market to see her. If you know the area you'll realise that it's not the kind of place where people normally turn out for public figures. After three quarters of an hour a motorcade appeared made up of blacked-out vehicles, most of which were duplicates of the one behind. It drove straight into the school gates. The waiting crowd saw literally nothing.

Around about the same time I was walking through Green Park one summer evening when I arrived at the Mall to find that the police had stopped the traffic because the Queen was going from Buckingham Palace to Lancaster House. I waited, completely on my own, on the pavement as a couple of outriders drove ahead of a large limousine with the royal standard on top. It was one of those vehicles which has been designed so that the people outside it can see the people in it. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh smiled at me – not at a crowd but at me – and waved. I smiled and waved back.

All heads of state are equally concerned about security. But all heads of state also have a duty to be seen. It seems the Queen understands this better than the Obamas.