Yesterday’s speech by the President Obama to the members of the House of Commons and Lords was yet another memorable episode in what I can only describe as very dramatic and rewarding year as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport.
For days there has been a buzz of anticipation around the House of Commons only to be supplemented by the buzz of the security helicopters that have been circulating above Westminster and Whitehall.
He is only the third US President to have been invited to come and speak to the two houses but he was the first one to speak in Westminster Hall – following on from the Pope and Nelson Mandela – which he thought could have been the opening line for a very poor joke.
This was not just a speech aimed at politicians and the people that were sitting in front of him but rather one that should focus on the wider global audience that will be watching and listening to it on television and radio. It was one that would have to have an impact on different faith communities and not just be targeted at the English speaking Christian world.
He demonstrated how Britain and America share common values; how their development over centuries had created opportunities for emerging economies – like China and India – to become wealthier countries. He argued that the role that both of us have played in delivering freer societies would in time feed down into wealthier individual citizens.
Speaking in Westminster Hall and in the mother of Parliaments, he was able to demonstrate how the Magna Carta, the English Civil war, the Boston Tea Party, the 2nd World war and conflicts in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a long line of events that tried to create a freer world where citizens are empowered to take control of their own lives.
Perhaps it was because as the Member of Parliament for one of the Plymouth seats, I was very struck by how our City – of all the places in Britain – can proudly claim to be the birth place for what used to be called the Special Relationship but has now been renamed the Essential Relationship.