chapter  3
23 Pages

Personal diplomacy: Relations between prime ministers and presidents

WithJOHN DUMBRELL

Personal relationships, especially personal friendships, between prime ministers and American presidents are part of the received mythology of the Special Relationship. The history of the Special Relationship indeed is often defi ned by ‘special’ personal partnerships which seem to embody and exemplify the Anglo-American alliance. Pre-eminent here were the Cold War friendships between Harold Macmillan and John Kennedy, and between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The obvious post-Cold War equivalent would be Tony Blair’s relationships with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The picture of close US-UK relations being driven by periodic personal friendships is superfi cially persuasive. Did not Kennedy and Macmillan – two leaders who were actually related by marriage – heal the transatlantic rifts associated with the Suez crisis of 1956? Did Thatcher and Reagan not bury the rows associated with the Vietnam War and the cooling of relations during the premiership of Edward Heath? Did the strange trinity of Clinton-Blair-Bush not revive special relations following the removal of shared anti-communist interests after the end of the Cold War?