Belfast Telegraph

We're not Putin up with G8 ban on leaders' Wags

By Lindy McDowell

What the hell is David Cameron playing at? According to a weekend report the Prime Minister is encouraging world leaders to attend this year's G8 conference in Fermanagh without the wives and girlfriends – and presumably, in this age of equality, without Mr Merkel.

According to these reports, the thinking behind this blow to the tourist industry of the Fermanagh lakeland is that Dave believes conference delegates need to be "focused" on the major areas of debate without the "distraction" of their other halves.

"Distraction" might be an issue for the England football team at the Euros. But you would think Barack Obama would be able to discuss issues such as global warming without worrying that Mrs Obama was making free with his credit card in the Erneside shopping centre.

Michelle is just one of the starring attractions we'll miss out on if this report is indeed true. Valerie Trierweller, partner of France's Francois Hollande would also forfeit the jaunt. And of course, the mysterious Mrs Putin.

Is there even a Mrs Putin anymore? Although Russian leader Vladimir is known to have married the former Lyudmila Shkrebneva in the early 80s there is some confusion as to whether the couple are still together.

Think of the sensation (and more important, global attention) it would attract to the place if Mr Putin and Lyudmila Putina (as she is properly known) were to be snapped on a boat trip on Lough Erne.

You couldn't pay for tourism promotion like that. But back to dithering Dave, and apparently he's worried not just about Vlad on the lough, but Vlad in it.

According to 'a source', Mr C and his officials are "trying to work out what to do if Putin wants to swim in the lough".

Provide him with a towel?

Vladimir would not strike you as a boy who would be overly troubled by health and safety concerns.

Whether it's catching a chill in the Erne waters or exposing himself to dissident – or anti-G8 – action.

This is a man who infamously felled (with a tranquiliser dart) a tiger that was allegedly menacing a TV crew in his own interpretation of Life of P.

I can't see that he'd be fazed by a day trip to Devenish.

If the G8 conference were to be staged in England it would be all guns blazing (so to speak) on the promotional front.

Dave Cameron would certainly not be hinting that Michelle Obama should sit it out in Washington or that the Russian leader should keep his Speedos under wraps.

So why here?

Obvious explanations spring to mind. Could it be because the PSNI has already used up its overtime budget for the next decade policing flag protests?

And given the battalions it's taken to oversee wee Jamie Bryson with a couple of dozen mates in Donegall Square, has it occurred to the PM that police chiefs here may be seriously challenged in securing the G8?

Solution? Why not outsource security during the visit to the Russian secret service?

In fact why not get them over for a bit of pre-conference training?

It's not just the visit of the G8 Wags or Vladimir's morning swim that may be at risk if we don't get this sorted.

We may also be missing out on the potential for those global titans to be seen to enjoy a bit of down time in local bars.

Putin is known to like a bit of a sing song. During a concert in St Petersburg he entertained his audience with a rendition of Blueberry Hill (great song!) and the less catchy From What the Motherland Begins?

But if these recent reports are true there will be no such fun in Fermanagh.

If Vladimir's looking for a wee vod while he's here it will be room service only, no out-on-the-town (or the lough) with the Mrs, no swimming, no singing, no Putin on the ritz ...

Fare thee well Enniskillen.

Belfast Telegraph


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