London, Nov. 30: Tony Blair chose a £300 fountain pen named after Winston Churchill as his birthday present for Jacques Chirac, the French President.
The Prime Minister hopes that the handmade gift, which features Chirac’s name engraved on a gold band, will go some way towards restoring relations between the leaders.
But Chirac may be left wondering whether the Prime Minister was trying to make a point when he chose a present associated with Britain’s great wartime leader.
The “Churchill” was made by Conway Stewart, a small company based in Plymouth that specialises in pens.
Churchill used a Conway Stewart when he was Prime Minister, and the pen made in his honour has an 18-carat gold nib. It comes in a presentation pack containing a Don Ramos, Churchill-style cigar and a book of quotes from the great man.
Don Yendle, Conway Stewart’s managing director, said he had also made Churchill pens for Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, and George W Bush, the American President, since being taken on as a supplier by Downing Street three months ago.
The Prime Minister gave Chirac his 70th birthday present at the Nato summit in Prague earlier this month. Chirac’s pen was marbled brown, while Putin has received a burgundy one and Bush’s is blue.
A Downing Street spokesman said that the Prime Minister was entitled to buy presents for other leaders using public funds when it was deemed appropriate. He would not say what was the budget for such gifts.
Churchill’s finest hour coincided with the defeat and occupation of France in 1940 and his relations with Gen. de Gaulle were strained. Although the British public recently voted him the greatest Briton, Chirac may not feel so affectionately towards him.
Yendle said there was at least one reference to the French in the book of Churchill quotations.
He would not say what it was, but it may come from the speech in which Churchill mocked the French generals for their refusal to believe that Britain could defy Adolf Hitler.
“When I warned them [the French government] that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided cabinet: ‘In three weeks, England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken! Some neck!”Churchill said in 1941.