I’ll report a lot more later on David Cameron’s Washington visit.  The day began (photo above) with David Cameron paying respects to the American soldiers who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He’s just spoken at the Brookings Institute about the Balkans.  A very authoritative speech and cleverly chosen.  Mr Cameron raised a neglected issue of looming seriousness but avoided the minefields of Middle East policy.

William Hague is accompanying the Conservative leader.  Andy Coulson is also here in a sign of the media importance of this trip.  The Tory delegation enjoyed dinner with Mike Bloomberg in New York last night and also saw Chuck Hagel, the most anti-war Republican Senator.  Meetings are also scheduled with Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley (National Security Adviser) and, I’m 99% sure, George W Bush himself.  Mr Cameron won’t be meeting any Democrats but his choice of Brookings, a left-leaning organisation with little influence on this administration, to host his speech was interesting.  If Mr Cameron had chosen the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute, for example, he would have been guaranteed a bigger audience with better connections to Team Bush.  But if that was one ‘Im-a-different-kind-of-Conservative’ message, the overall flavour has been decidely pro-American.  These are the opening paragraphs of Mr Cameron’s Brookings speech:

"This is my first visit to Washington as Britain’s Leader of the Opposition.

I wanted to mark it this morning by paying my respects at Arlington National Cemetery, where so many of your country’s heroes are buried.  Men and women who have served not just the United States, but the cause of freedom the world over.  In Europe, we will never forget the sacrifices Americans have made for our liberty.

I and my colleagues represent a new generation of leadership in the Conservative Party.   But the Party I lead today in Opposition, and which I hope to lead in Government, is proudly Atlanticist, proud of the ties of history and family that bind our two nations.  Britain and America have stood alongside each other in so many of the battles for liberty over the last century.  In two World Wars. My own grandfather landed with the liberation forces on the Normandy beaches and fought alongside our American allies before he was wounded and evacuated to Britain.

We stood together in the battle against Soviet expansionism.  And today we must stand together against global terrorism fuelled by a perversion of the Islamic faith.  I’ve seen our soldiers serving together in the deserts of Afghanistan and the dust of Iraq, and I pay tribute to their professionalism, their courage, and their comradeship.

The relationship between our two countries is indeed special.   And it will remain special for any British Government I lead – grounded in the long history we share together, and the ability to talk freely to each other as only old friends can.  My view is clear: the cause of peace and progress is best served by an America that is engaged in the world. And the values we hold dear are best defended when Britain and the United States, and the United States and Europe, stand together."

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