Queen Elizabeth, British PM David Cameron in double diplomatic gaffe

The 90-year-old monarch was caught on camera during a garden party at Buckingham Palace saying Chinese officials were 'very rude' to the British ambassador during a state visit to Britain by President Xi Jinping last year.
British Prime Minister David Cameron being introduced to Queen Elizabeth II at a reception in London's Buckingham Palace.
British Prime Minister David Cameron being introduced to Queen Elizabeth II at a reception in London's Buckingham Palace.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron called Nigeria and Afghanistan "possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world" in inadvertently public remarks Tuesday (May 10), as Queen Elizabeth II was caught making her own gaffe about a "rude" Chinese delegation.

Mr Cameron was filmed making the remarks to the queen and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at an event at Buckingham Palace, ahead of an anti-corruption summit he is hosting in London on Thursday.

"We've got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain," the prime minister said.

"Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world," he added.

The archbishop, who worked as an oil executive in West Africa before joining the church and who has also undertaken conflict resolution work in Nigeria, noted that "this particular president is actually not corrupt".

"He's really trying," Mr Cameron agreed, and the queen noted to the archbishop: "He is trying, isn't he?" It was not clear to whom they were referring, but Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani are both due to attend the summit.

At a separate garden party event on Tuesday, the queen was caught on camera describing the delegation for a Chinese state visit last year as "rude".

Police commander Lucy D'Orsi was introduced to the queen as the woman who oversaw security for the visit of President Xi Jinping and his wife in October, to which the monarch replied: "Oh, bad luck".

D'Orsi was recorded as saying, "I'm not sure whether you knew, but it was quite a testing time for me," to which the queen replied that she did know, before adding that members of the Chinese delegation "were very rude to the ambassador".

The police commander agreed, saying, "It was very rude and very undiplomatic I thought". It was not clear which members of the delegation they were referring to.

Beijing and Chinese state media at the time hailed the visit as a high watermark in Sino-British relations.

There was no immediate response from Chinese officials to Tuesday's remarks, while the Daily Mail cited Buckingham Palace as saying it would not comment on the queen's private conversations.

"However the Chinese State Visit was extremely successful and all parties worked closely to ensure it proceeded smoothly," the British newspaper quoted a spokesman as saying.

A spokesman for the Nigerian president said Mr Cameron's comments on corruption were "embarrassing".

 

"This is embarrassing to us, to say the least, given the good work that the President is doing. The eyes of the world are on what is happening here," spokesman Garba Shehu said in remarks released on social media.

"The prime minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. Things are changing with corruption and everything else." Mr Buhari has embarked on a widespread anti-corruption campaign since taking office one year ago, and is due to give a speech on the issue in London on Wednesday.

In Afghanistan, Mr Ghani also made a promise to rein in runaway corruption when he was elected in 2014.

On Tuesday, a Downing Street spokesman said it would not comment on a private conversation, but noted that both Mr Buhari and Mr Ghani "have acknowledged the scale of the corruption challenge they face in their countries".

She said that in a collection of essays to be published at the summit, Mr Ghani writes that Afghanistan is "one of the most corrupt countries on Earth".

Mr Buhari, for his part, writes that corruption became a "way of life" under "supposedly accountable democratic governments", the spokesman said.

She concluded: "Both leaders have been invited to the summit because they are driving the fight against corruption in their countries."