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Trump and May: What gifts have US and UK leaders given?-NewsCO

January 29, 2017

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The traditional exchange of gifts between the US and UK leaders has not always run smoothly – with leather jackets and trench coats among the notable rejections.

But some are the gifts that keep giving, with Queen Victoria’s 1880 present – the Oval Office’s Resolute desk – used by President Donald Trump on his first day in the White House.

Theresa May presented the US president with a quaich, a traditional Scottish cup of friendship, while First Lady Melania Trump received a hamper of produce from the prime minister’s country residence, Chequers.

In return, the UK prime minister was given a framed picture of Abraham Lincoln swearing the Oath of Office on the same copy of the Bible used by Mr Trump at his inauguration.

Mrs Trump, meanwhile, gave a pair of silver cufflinks by New York designer David Yurman to Mrs May’s husband, Philip.

But how do these gifts compare to those exchanged by leaders past?

Most presents held by UK government departments include works of art, watches, wine and jewellery.

But under the ministerial code of conduct, if government ministers want to keep a gift personally they are obliged to declare presents worth more than £140.

So while smaller gifts will remain unknown, news of some of the bigger – and stranger gifts – have been disclosed to the public.

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Artist Ben Eine, who has worked with Banksy, began his career by “tagging” his name on buildings

Cameron’s ‘art swap’

On his first trip to Washington as prime minister in 2010, David Cameron’s official gift to President Barack Obama included a painting by a graffiti artist.

The work, Twenty First Century City, by Ben Eine, was said to be one of Mr Cameron’s wife Samantha’s favourite artists.

Mr Obama continued the art theme by presenting the Camerons with a signed lithograph by pop artist Ed Ruscha.

The piece, Column with Speed Lines, was chosen for its red, white and blue colours matching the British and American flags.

Writing on his website, Ben Eine – who has worked with Banksy – said it had been a “weird day” because “David Cameron has given one of my paintings to President Obama in an art swap”.

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Reuters

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The Camerons gave the Obamas a table tennis table in a nod to the match the men played in 2011

The following year, Obama chose to give the Camerons a customised “one-of-a-kind” barbecue as a reminder of their time flipping burgers together in the 10 Downing Street garden during the Obamas’ London visit in May 2011.

In return, the Camerons gave the president and his family a customised Dunlop table tennis table.

It’s a nod to the match the two men played against school children in south London during the same 2011 trip.

Mrs Cameron also gave First Lady Michelle Obama a printed blue scarf by Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders, inspired by Victorian wallpaper.

Brown’s let down

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Gordon Brown rejected the ‘Camp David’ jacket which was a present from George W Bush

In 2009, Mr Obama was criticised for lack of thought when he presented previous Prime Minister Gordon Brown with a set of 25 DVDs of classic US films, when Mr Brown visited Washington.

Mr Brown gave the US president a pen and holder carved from an anti-slavery ship and biographies of Winston Churchill, worth $16,510.

Perhaps Mr Obama was trying to play it safe after Mr Bush’s gift the previous year, of a fur-trimmed leather bomber jacket, had been rejected by Mr Brown.

The jacket was emblazoned with the presidential logo and featured Mr Brown’s name.

All gifts over a certain value have to be declared by government ministers – but Mr Brown chose not to pay for the jacket, according to reports at the time.

Sponge bag Blair

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It is not known if Tony Blair received one of the Camp David leather bomber jackets

In 2003, a list of presents given to President George W Bush since he had taken office in 2001 included a £216 sponge bag from Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The toilet bag was believed to have been a light-hearted reference to the president’s comment on first meeting Mr Blair that they had at least one thing in common – the same toothpaste.

It had “GWB” embossed in gold on the top.

Mr Blair’s gift was notably cheaper than some, with Russia’s Vladimir Putin presenting a £12,000 pen and Afghan President Hamid Karzai gifting a £3,000 wool and silk rug. But it was not the cheapest on the list – Morocco gave Mr Bush a £2 jar of fish bait.

Burberry comes up short

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“I’m sure he thought: ‘What in the world is going on?’ said Lyndon Johnson’s personal ambassador

In the 1960s, Prime Minister Harold Wilson reportedly gave President Lyndon Johnson a Burberry coat.

Lloyd Hand, who was the president’s chief of protocol and personal ambassador at the time, told US National Public Radio: “President Johnson opened the box and put the coat on, and the sleeves came about halfway on his arms.

“He said ‘Lloyd, see if you can catch the prime minister and tell him this is the wrong size.’

Mr Hand said he stuffed the coat back in the box and raced down the steps, out of the diplomatic entrance and to the driveway where Mr Wilson was leaving.

As the prime minister’s car rolled down the driveway, Mr Hand rapped on the window.

“I’m sure he thought: ‘What in the world is going on?’, and I told him the story and he laughed and said, ‘Of course I’ll get it and I’ll get the right size and get it back to him,'” he said.

The President’s Desk

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Reuters

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The Resolute desk was moved into the Oval Office by President John F Kennedy in 1961

Considered one of the White House’s “treasures” today, the president’s desk in the Oval Office was a present from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B Hayes in 1880.

Known as the “Resolute desk” it was made from the oak timbers of the British ship HMS Resolute and has been used by every president since Mr Hayes, apart from Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford, according to the White House Historical Association.

It was first used in the Oval Office in 1961 at the request of President John F Kennedy.

Gift horses

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Sir John is not the only recipient of an Akhal-Teke stallion – Russia has presented one to Bahrain

Some of the more unusual gifts showered on our UK leaders in recent years may not have come from the US, but have included Mr Blair’s Segway scooter – presented by the King of Jordan, and a bronze fox from the government of Belgium.

Other presents received by Mr Blair included an electric car from the president of Ferrari and three guitars – one of them from rock star Bryan Adams.

But perhaps the stand-out gift of note is Sir John Major’s “gift horse”.

In 1993, then-Prime Minister Sir John was presented with a framed photograph of a horse called Maksat, a pure-bred Akhal-Teke stallion, by the President of Turkmenistan.

The only snag was that the animal was in Turkmenistan and the UK was expected to collect it.

Sir John decided he wouldn’t have been able to keep the animal, so the Household Cavalry decided to take it, leading to one of the strangest assignments ever taken on by a British diplomat.

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