Watching for a "surprise" visit
The scheduling for Condi Rice's visit to England over the next few days mimics Jack Straw's "cultural" itinerary in Alabama (Condi's home state), which included an American Football game. Now one aspect of the symmetric trip to Blackburn, Lancashire (and will the weekend escape without that Beatles reference in someone's speech?) has already fallen through:
A visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to a mosque in Jack Straw's constituency has been cancelled under the threat of protests.
Muslims opposed to her trip to the Blackburn mosque had planned to protest in the building ahead of her arrival, spokesman Ibrahim Master said.
Other events on the schedule are proceeding as planned:
Dr Rice has been invited to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra concert to celebrate the city's status as European Capital of Culture 2008. The trip has already caused controversy with poet Roger McGough pulling out of plans to compere the event.
Missing though is a sporting fixture, because Blackburn don't play till Monday night, but the PR stunt of a trip to a match must be very tempting. The fixture list is not especially cooperative, not least given the need for Condi to keep her concert engagement. The only realistic prospect therefore is Everton's match with Sunderland. Though not the top-of-the-table clash that Jack Straw might want, the sight of Condi at an Everton match would send Powerline into ecstasy.