Former US President Bill Clinton declined offers of tea with Queen Elizabeth and dinner at the British Prime Minister’s official country house because he wanted to “be a tourist,” go shopping and eat Indian food during his first official visit to the UK with Tony Blair as leader in 1997, according to formerly classified documents.
Downing Street was “pulling out all the stops” to ensure Clinton’s May 1997 visit – made between trips to summits in The Hague and Paris – was a “public relations success,” according to memos between Dominick Chilcott, assistant private secretary to the foreign secretary, and John Holmes, Blair’s principal private secretary.
Between a combined news conference and dinner, the Clintons had some spare time.
Dinner for the Blairs and Clintons was in the French restaurant Le Pont de la Tour near Tower Bridge, rather than an Indian restaurant.
The stakes were high at Bill Clinton’s UK trip as both American and British officials were required to ‘show the president and the prime minister to the wider world as young, dynamic and serious leaders’. Reportedly, the US visitors were keen for ‘fun’ and ‘photogenic’ outside events.
The documents have been released by the UK’s National Archives.
From 1993 to 2001, Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States.
He served as governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and again from 1983 to 1992, as well as attorney general from 1977 to 1979.
A member of the Democratic Party, Clinton was known as a New Democrat, and many of his policies reflected a centrist “Third Way” political philosophy.
He is married to Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State (2009–2013) and presidential candidate in 2008 and 2016.