Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Louis B. Susman, United States Ambassador to UK, Ford, Dagenham, President Obama

The office of United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's used to be a very powerful post. Even Hollywood great Gregory Peck immortalised the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom in The Omen (R.Donner,1976).
   Devilish Satan chose to impregnate the wife of the aghast American Ambassador with Damien, the Antichrist spawn. Poor old Peck's Ambassador truly suffered - though, of course, not quite as much as his wife.
   You Have Been Warned, none of this tasteless yet entertaining cult horror movie nonsense filled my head tonight (Tuesday, 11 November). I scuttled along to the Telegraph Group's swish Victoria HQ along with 130 London Press Club guests. We listened to the current US Ambassador, Louis B.Susman, generously inform and surprisingly entertain us about the meaning of President Obama's re-election last week.
   I had sat down resolved to later stand up and ask Ambassador Susman (above) how he felt when a proud American corporation, Ford, announced in October it intended to permanently cut Transit van production, plant and 1,400 jobs at Southampton and at Dagenham in east London.
   I wanted some measure of Ambassador Susman's 'sway' over corporate America. Did Ford executives even courteously consult the Ambassador before they took a decision that will seriously harm the lives of many British working people and their families?
   I wasn't sure how Ambassador Susman might react. Married with two children and three grandchildren, Susman is no stranger to the cut and thrust of corporate USA. A former banker and corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer, his boardroom CV includes Citigroup and Salomon Brothers.
   Unfortunately, sorry, but I'm not at liberty to record for you - dear reader - Ambassador Susman's possibly thoughtful and direct response to any question I may have asked. You see, the LPC ran the Q&A session under 'Chatham House rules' - a very British trait designed to encourage frank and open talk but effectively taking responses off-the-record.
   Ambassador Susman - on the record -  did say the Democrat party machine tipped the balance. "Party officials even handed out pizzas to people standing in line to vote," said Susman. 
   The Ambassador said Obama's victory was "a strong repudiation of the policies of the right wing of the Republican Party",  a party whose members will now be engulfed in "a vicious struggle" to determine its future direction.
   I can also report Susman said a second-term President Obama, free from the need for re-election, will act more decisively as he no longer needs to satisfy "powerful vested interests". The Ambassador predicted an "unshackled President Obama" will set up an investment bank to specifically fund new infrastructure.
Nevertheless, what I may have heard from the Ambassador about what I might've specifically asked him has resolved me to return soon to  the matter of Ford and Dagenham/Southampton...as the impact of these lost London and Southampton jobs, many exported to Turkey, is a real life horror for these folk and their families.

With thanks to Kate O'Reilly and LPC colleagues.

Paul Coleman, London, November 2012

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