Bill Clinton turned down an invitation to have tea with the Queen because he “wanted to be a tourist” in London, newly released official papers show.
The US president was visiting the UK in 1997 – four weeks after Tony Blair came to power – and said he wanted to hit the shops and eat Indian food.
Memos between Whitehall aides show Mr Clinton was invited to Buckingham Palace to 5pm tea.
But a letter written by Downing Street private secretary Philip Barton said: “The Americans said that the president and Mrs Clinton were very grateful for HM The Queen’s invitation to tea at the palace, but would wish to decline politely.”
The restaurant bill racked up by the Blairs and Clintons is also among the series of files released by the National Archives in Kew, dating back to Mr Blair’s first few months in government.
They spent a total of £298.86 at Le Pont de La Tour – and the bill featured £20 wild salmon, £19.50 grilled sole, £18 halibut, a £2.95 Budvar beer, and a bottle of Mas de Duamas 1995 wine priced at £34.75.
Blair and Brown tensions
The latest tranche of official papers from 1997 also shows that Mr Blair’s aides wanted Gordon Brown‘s spin doctor “out on his ear” amid fears that unauthorised briefings were damaging the new Labour government.
Files suggest officials struggled to manage tensions between the administration’s two most dominant figures right from their early days in office.
Peter Mandelson – one of Mr Blair’s ministers – repeatedly complained about the actions of Charles Whelan, who served as Mr Brown’s press secretary.
Mr Whelan was accused of planting a series of hostile stories about Mr Mandelson that were making the government “look foolish, and worse”.
A frank note written to Mr Blair also suggested that Mr Brown was using his chairmanship of cabinet committees to “bludgeon through” his own policies.
Scottish independence worries
The now-unclassified documents from 1997 also show that Downing Street advisers had conceded that Scotland could have a referendum on “anything it wants” without Westminster’s consent.
Even back then, key aides to the prime minister said “a couple of very worried Scottish MPs” were concerned about “the slippery slope to independence”.
Scotland voted in favour of devolution in September 1997, with Labour pledging that the country would be able to set up its own parliament responsible for education, health,…