President Bush is likely to be in Sedgefield, Tony Blair's constituency, at 8pm this coming Thursday. Glancing out of the window of wherever the presidential party is being entertained, he may wonder what strange ritual takes place in Britain at that hour. For if one protest inspired by the Labour Party in Scotland goes to plan, ordinary householders will be switching off their lights. The former foreign secretary Robin Cook, who not so long ago might himself have expected to be spending quality time with the president, has announced his enthusiastic support.
Even if that protest goes unobserved, the president is sure to have plenty of other memories to take back from his short stay. Also on Thursday, the Stop the War Coalition hopes to greet him with one of the largest anti-war protests to date, setting out from Malet Street, London WC1, at 2pm for Trafalgar Square. According to the organisers, there has been a better advance response to this demonstration than to the one in February. They hope to erect and topple a statue of the president. Other statues of Bush could also be toppled on university campuses and in front of town halls around the country.
Some protesters are travelling from the US, including a Second World War veteran and his wife, who have asked for hotel accommodation close to the demo starting line. Ron Kovic, the Vietnam veteran on whose autobiography Oliver Stone based his film Born on the Fourth of July, will also be there to proclaim, with other Expats Against Bush: "Proud of my country, ashamed of my president."
Violet Jackson, a 23-year-old law student, has found roughly 20 other women to march with her as part of the WWOBB (We Want Our Boyfriends Back) coalition.
The London Student Comedy Society intends to be more welcoming. It will field 30 or so members dressed as clowns and carrying a banner that proclaims: "Comedy Society Supports Bush - Keep laughing at his expense". One member, James Neal, said: "If it wasn't for Dubbya, we couldn't make jokes at his expense. Half our repertoire wouldn't exist."
On Wednesday, the Stop the War Coalition plans an alternative cavalcade at 11am, with horse-drawn carriage, bikes, scooters, anti-war taxis, cheerleaders and a red peace bus. Later that day, the president will be able to catch the One in Love women's group having a lunchtime picnic in Trafalgar Square. At 3pm, he can move on to a tea party outside Buckingham Palace. Here he should try to avoid the Scrap Bush Women's Collective, which has called for women to join their protest of "shaving their bushes and sending the trimmings to the Queen". They instruct: "Put them in an envelope with a note saying, 'We've got rid of our bush, you get rid of yours!'"
In the evening, Dubbya might want to head to north London, where, at the Camden Centre at 8.30pm, he will find "Tell Me Lies . . ." an evening of poetry, protest and song by various artists, including Adrian Mitchell, the self-styled shadow poet laureate.
For NS readers unable to attend, Mitchell has written "To Bush and Blair", a topical couplet:
Stand on the balcony - smile and wave - the Killer Robot and his Favourite Slave
Despite the intense security planned for the visit, don't be alarmed if you see US troops patrolling the streets. They most likely will be students from Imperial College, London. "We are going to try to give people a taste of what everyday Iraq is like," said Theodoros Papatheodorou, of Imperial Against Imperialism.