Donald Trump’s trip to the UK will be the 12th by a US president. But this working, not state, visit is expected to be different to those that have gone before.
In 1977 Jimmy Carter came to Britain on his first overseas trip as president. His main aim was to attend the G7 summit in London, but he also chose to visit Newcastle.
The city had taken part in a scheme designed to build bridges between the United States and the rest of the world. So the newly elected leader of the free world decided to conduct his first act of global diplomacy from a podium outside the concrete splendour of Newcastle Civic Centre.
He was given the freedom of the city by the mayor. And when the peanut farmer from Georgia stepped up to the microphone, he greeted an adoring crowd of 20,000 people thus: “Howay the lads! I am grateful to be a Geordie now.”
The local newspaper, the Chronicle, reported: “They packed the airport. They packed the streets. They packed the area outside the Civic Centre and they opened their arms to him. And he loved it. A great smile spread across his face… as he was greeted by crowds waving both the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.”
This was how it used to be: British crowds cheering US presidents.
When JFK came in 1961, half a million people lined the route between London airport and the west end to catch a glimpse of him and his wife Jackie. The scale of the public adulation was in part due to the fact that US presidents enjoyed great popularity in Britain: they were political show business and our closest allies in recent wars.
They also came to the UK more rarely. The first president to visit was Woodrow Wilson in 1918 during the post-World War One peace talks. But it was not for another 27 years – and after another world war – that a second US president came to our shores, in 1945.
And all Harry S Truman did was visit King George VI on a naval cruiser anchored in Plymouth harbour. Dwight D Eisenhower did not come until 1959. So, only three presidential visits in 40 years. Lyndon Johnson never came, nor did Gerald Ford.