Oh, the memories! Cameron and Obama exchange presents

The President and the PM exchange gifts that commemorate... er, the last state visit.

If you've watched the news, looked at a paper, or listened to the radio this week, you'll be well aware that David Cameron went on a state visit to America.

And what are state visits about, if not presents? (And endless photo opportunities, of course).

Obama presented Cameron with a customised and charcoal cooking grill, complete with bean bag chairs for the children and his and her's chef jackets. It's not a random gift either - it is a reference to Obama's visit to London in May last year, when the two cooked burgers for military servicemen.

Not to be outdone, Cameron presented Obama with a table tennis table - which also commemorates the last visit, when the pair played ping-pong with students. How romantic -- the memories we've shared!

Perhaps Obama has learned from his mistakes. In 2009, Gordon Brown gave him an ornamental pen holder made from the timbers of the Victorian anti-slave ship HMS Gannet. Its sister ship was carved to make the desk in the Oval Office. In return, Obama gave Brown a set of 25 American DVDs, which, in a tragic twist, weren't even compatible with UK DVD players. Nothing very memorable about that.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump's inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era

A century in which the world's hegemonic power was a rational actor is about to give way to a more terrifying reality. 

For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office.  The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

We also have another signal – if it were needed – that he intends to turn a blind eye to the actions of autocrats around the world.

What does that mean for Brexit? It confirms that those who greeted the news that an US-UK trade deal is a “priority” for the incoming administration, including Theresa May, who described Britain as “front of the queue” for a deal with Trump’s America, should prepare themselves for disappointment.

For Europe in general, it confirms what should already been apparent: the nations of Europe are going to have be much, much more self-reliant in terms of their own security. That increases Britain’s leverage as far as the Brexit talks are concerned, in that Britain’s outsized defence spending will allow it acquire goodwill and trade favours in exchange for its role protecting the European Union’s Eastern border.

That might allow May a better deal out of Brexit than she might have got under Hillary Clinton. But there’s a reason why Trump has increased Britain’s heft as far as security and defence are concerned: it’s because his presidency ushers in an era in which we are all much, much less secure. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.