IN the heat of the summer morning, a throng waited. The prophet of hope was on his way and the believers were eager for his blessing.

Hope, dreams, freedom, a world made new. Those are Barack Obama’s watchwords, and yesterday in Downing Street all manner of camera teams, scribblers, acolytes and stargazers had assembled for an audience with His Expectancy.

For Obama the road had been long, not just from his father’s goat herd roots in Kenya to US presidential candidate but these last few days via Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany and France.

In Berlin he had roused 200,000 to cheers at the Tier-garten. “This is our moment to give our children back their future,” he declaimed. “This is the moment to stand as one” - and was in Paris before anyone in the delirious crowd could work out what he meant.

Yesterday, London wanted some of the rock star magic. At the gates of Downing Street workmen with pneumatic drills were hammering the road. Gordon Brown digging in? Surely not: he needs any dreams, any hope Obama can spare.

Just before 9am the drilling stopped and hush descended. Men in shades appeared, with earpieces and wired necks and “secret service” written across their foreheads. A Mercedes-Benz people carrier with blacked-out windows swept in. The president was here.

Whoa! Hold up there. President? This man is merely a candidate. But he so looks the part, it’s easy to forget the small matter of the election in November.