My London-based TIME colleague Catherine Mayer e-mails this account of what it looked like from the other end of the press scrum:
The special relationship came pretty much unstuck today. You see, the
British press and especially the still photographers felt that the US press
corps was getting preferential treatment. You were allowed to stand in
Downing Street and then to sit on the ground, and then the Prime Minister’s
press spokesman came over to ask if you were comfortable down there.
Meanwhile the ladies and gents of the Brit press were crammed like sardines
under the scaffolding that’s shrouding the backside of the Foreign Office at
the moment, and with me perched in their midst and hoping nobody would
remember that I’m one of you.
Seriously, tempers did fray. There was pushing and shoving among the hacks
but most of the anger was directed against Obama’s campaign team. “This is
my f***ing country,” shouted one. Another started singing his own version of
Rule Britannia: “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the scaffolding.” There was
a black photographer who seemed to be with Team Obama and was taken into
Downing Street at one point. When he came out, the British snappers thought
it simply hilarious to shout “senator!” at him.
The funny thing is, none of this aggression will spill over into coverage of
the Obama visit to London. This may have been more muted than Berlin and
Paris, but Britain is starstruck by Obama too. And anyway, it’s not Obama
but his Downing Street host that everyone is queuing up to kick, especially
after Labour lost a safe seat in a byelection two days ago. The question in
America is who will win in November. The question here is whether Gordon
Brown can make it to November. In any case, I’m expecting headlines here
about tomorrow’s man visiting yesterday’s man.