Gordon Brown’s hopes of being the first European leader to visit Barack Obama in the White House appeared to be receding on Tuesday.

Number 10 said it attached little importance to “what meetings happen when”.

Mr Brown’s spokesman said the important thing was that the two men “shared the same values”, whether on the environment, the Middle East or the need for fiscal intervention in the economy.

British diplomats have been busy working behind the scenes in Washington to secure Mr Brown an early slot at the White House. There were hopes that a first meeting could come as soon as next month.

David Miliband, foreign secretary, predicted “a huge flap” over “which planes are being boarded first by which European leaders”.

“From our point of view what counts is that Britain has a very strong partnership,” he said.

Mr Brown’s spokesman said Mr Obama would be in London in April for a G20 summit of leading developed and emerging countries.

Mr Brown and David Cameron, the Conservative leader, have sporadically clashed over the US election, as each laid claim to the Obama political movement.

Much of the praise heaped on the new president has been self-serving, highlighting his strengths that chime with each party’s domestic political message.

Mr Brown, for instance, has often spoken on Mr Obama’s “progressive values” and suggested that the president backs the use of a fiscal stimulus. He hailed Mr Obama on Tuesday as “a man of great moral purpose”.

Mr Cameron, by contrast, has highlighted the message of “change”, echoing Obama-esque themes in speeches. “I think a lot of change,” he said on Tuesday. “But what I find so convincing ... is this emphasis on responsibility.”

Mr Brown found himself in a spot of bother during the presidential election campaign when an article published under his name appeared to endorse Mr Obama.

Insiders initially blamed a careless official for the piece. But once the result of the election was clear, one official joked: “Of course that article was handwritten by the prime minister and fully reflected his views.”

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