It’s funny what even the most seasoned politicians will say if they believe they aren’t on the record. It can happen to the best of them, so it’s no surprise that slick British PM David Cameron is the latest political figure to firmly lodge his foot in his own mouth. Rather controversially, the PM bragged that the Queen had “purred down the line” upon receiving news of Scotland’s decision to stay a part of the UK. The feline comparison has been met with round disapproval and calls for a swift apology to the Queen Regent.
The fiasco started when Mr. Cameron decided to pay a visit to the headquarters of Bloomberg Media in New York. In town for the UN Summit, the Conservative Prime Minister was met by former NY Mayor and head-honcho Michael Bloomberg. The two were ushered down a corridor, apparently unaware that their candid conversation was being recorded on a pooled TV camera waiting in the wings.
“The definition of relief is being the prime minister of the United Kingdom and ringing the queen and saying ‘It’s alright, it’s OK.’ That was something,” Cameron bragged to the diminutive mogul. “She purred down the line.”
Following on from those comments, Mr. Cameron addressed his own misgivings about the Scottish Independence vote. “It should never have been that close,” he said. “I want to find these polling companies and I want to sue them for my stomach ulcers because of what they put me through.”
Glibness aside, Mr. Cameron’s comments have been taken as a breach of protocol by the UK press, who are all too aware of the private nature of communications between the executive and the monarch. The issue is further muddied by his apparent willingness to divulge sensitive and perhaps even embarrassing information to a foreign national (watch the clip online, Mr. Cameron is hardly being interrogated).
It’s also a publicly embarrassing moment for Queen Elizabeth, not used to being mocked by Prime Ministers in such a belittling way. In fact, Mr. Cameron’s comparison has been met with round disapproval online and in the 24-hour British media, a risky proposition for an out-of-state PM.
In the end, it was left to Mr. Bloomberg to put an end to Mr. Cameron’s confessional stream. “Well, that’s why you get paid the big bucks,” he surmised, capping off a sensitive conversation which should never have been so publicly conducted.
It boggles the mind that seasoned political operatives such as Mr. Cameron are still susceptible to such epic lapses of judgment. After all, there are dozens of cameras in his line of sight and he’s surrounded by the media on all sides. Perhaps a more salient explanation is that he simply wasn’t expecting to get caught, that he assumed he was in friendly territory and therefore impervious to the obvious lenses and microphones surrounding him.
But, as we all know by now, the media (and its diminutive masters) can prove to be mercurial forces beyond control.
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