A poll last week suggested that by 71% to 15% the British people hoped for more distance in the UK-US relationship but there was little distancing on show at today's Bush-Brown press conference. The spirit shared by the two leaders was captured in responses to a final question about what might have changed in the special relationship since Tony Blair had left 10 Downing Street. George W Bush paid tribute to America's "most important bilateral relationship" and to the optimism and character of Mr Brown. Gordon Brown's remarks were much less personal but he emphasised that he hoped for a strengthening of the UK-US relationship in the years to come.
"PRESIDENT BUSH: Besides toothpaste? (Laughter.) You want to -- I'll start. Look, any time you share values the way we share values, it makes it easy to have strategic conversations; it makes it easy to be able to have common ground on which to deal with these problems. You just listed off a lot of problems. I happen to view them as great opportunities to begin to put conditions in place so that the world looks fundamentally different 50 years from now.
But I would say that the relationship between Great Britain and America is our most important bilateral relationship, for a lot of reasons -- trade. Great Britain has been attacked, we've been attacked, which caused us to lash up our intelligence services like never before. We have common interests throughout the world.
But it's an important relationship primarily because we think the same. We believe in freedom and justice as fundamentals of life. There's no doubt in my mind that freedom is universal; that freedom is a gift to each man, woman and child on the face of the earth, and that with freedom comes peace. And there's no doubt in my mind those of us who live under free societies have an obligation to work together to promote it.
And the man I listened to shares that same sense of morality, and that same sense of obligation -- not to free others, but to create the conditions so others can realize the blessings of freedom. We can't impose freedom, but we can eliminate roadblocks to freedom, and to allow free societies to develop. And it's really hard work, you know? There's a lot of cynics saying, how dare they; how dare they impose U.S. or Great British values. And what I found was a man who understands that these aren't Great British and U.S. values, these are universal values.
And so what was your question? (Laughter.)
Q What's changed?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, what's changed? He's a Scotsman, kind of a -- he's not the dour Scotsman that you described him, or the awkward Scotsman; he's actually the humorous Scotsman, the guy that -- we actually were able to relax and to share some thoughts. I was very interested in his family life. He's a man who has suffered unspeakable tragedy, and instead of that weakening his soul, strengthened his soul.
I was impressed, and I am confident that we'll be able to keep our relationship strong, healthy, vibrant, and that there will be constant communications as we deal with these problems. As I said, he's a problem-solver. And that's what we need as partners. We've got a lot of problems we're dealing with, and we can reach solutions. He's a glass-half-full man, not a glass-half-empty guy, you know? Some of these world leaders say, oh, the problems are so significant, let us retreat; let us not take them on, they're too tough. That's not Gordon Brown. His attitude is, I see a problem, let's work together to solve it. And for that, I'm grateful.
PRIME MINISTER BROWN: What President Bush has said is both very compassionate and reflects the conversation we had about a whole series of issues that we can deal with together.
I think your understanding, if I may say so, of Scotland was enhanced by the fact that you went to Scotland, you told me, at the age of 14, and had to sit through very long Presbyterian Church services in which you didn't understand a word of what the minister was actually saying. (Laughter.) So I think you came to a better understanding of the Scottish contribution to the United Kingdom from that.
Adam, you asked about the single-most important bilateral relationship for Britain, and I think President Bush has answered that, that that is the view of the United States, as well. Call it the special relationship; call it, as Churchill did, the joint inheritance; call it when we meet as a form of homecoming, as President Reagan did -- then you see the strength of this relationship, as I've said, is not just built on the shared problems that we have to deal with together, or on the shared history that is built, as President Bush has just said, on shared values. And these are values that he rightly says are universal. They're the belief in the dignity of the individual, the freedom and liberty that we can bring to the world, and a belief that everyone -- everyone -- should have the chance of opportunity.
And I do see this relationship strengthening in the years to come, because it is the values that we believe in that I think will have the most impact as we try to solve the problems that we face right across the world. And in a sense, the battle that we are facing with international terrorism is a battle between our values, which stress the dignity of every individual, and those who would maim and murder, irrespective of faith, indifferent to human life, often simply for propaganda effect, and of course with devastating effects, both on the communities that they claim to represent and the whole world.
So I want to stress the values that we hold in common, not in an abstract way, but in a very positive and concrete way, because I think the more we debate these issues about how the world would be organized to face international terrorism, the more we come back to the values that unite decent, hardworking people right across the world, whatever their faith, whatever their country, whatever their continent.
And it's been a privilege to be able to have these discussions with the President about how we can deal with all these challenges by applying not just our values, but applying the strength that comes from the strong relationship that exists between our two countries."
The full transcript can be read here on the White House site.