CAMERON’S CORRUPTION GAFFE AT PARTY FOR THE QUEEN
DAVID Cameron sparked anger yesterday after he was caught on camera telling the Queen that two countries on which Britain lavishes billions in overseas aid are “fantastically corrupt”.
His unguarded comments on Nigeria and Afghanistan were picked up by a TV microphone and came as he chatted about an anti-corruption summit he will host in London tomorrow.
The gaffe triggered fury last night over the £12billion a year cost to UK taxpayers from the aid budget.
Around £1.7billion in aid has gone to Nigeria and Afghanistan in the past five years and leaders of both countries will be at this week’s summit.
The Prime Minister’s remarks were recorded by news crews at an event at Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday. He told her: “We’ve got the leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain.” And he said Nigeria and Afghanistan were “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”. Those listening included the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Commons Speaker John Bercow and Tory Commons Leader Chris Grayling.
Mr Bercow was heard to joke: “They are coming at their own expense, one assumes?” After some laughter, Mr Cameron replied: “Yes, because it’s an anti-corruption summit, everything has to be open. So there are no closed-door sessions. It could be quite interesting.”
Jonathan Isaby, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “If Mr Cameron believes these countries to be so fantastically corrupt, why is he so fantastically generous in lavishing them with hundreds of millions of our money?
“Taxpayers do not see the funny side when their cash is despatched to questionable regimes where we cannot be entirely confident that the money will end up helping vulnerable people.”
Number 10 declined to comment on the conversation. But officials said the leaders of both countries had acknowledged the problems they faced in essays written for this week’s summit. Afghanistan’s Ashraf Ghani admits his is “one of the most corrupt countries on Earth”.
And Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari says corruption became a “way of life”. But last night he said he was “deeply shocked and embarrassed” by Mr Cameron’s remarks.
A Downing Street spokesman said the UK “stands shoulder to shoulder” with the countries as they tackle the issue.
Nigeria received £237million British aid in 2014 and Afghanistan £198million.
DAVID Cameron’s description of Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt countries” will no doubt cause the Prime Minister a great deal of embarrassment. But one cannot fault him for his accuracy.
Across much of the world corruption remains a way of life. For people living under such conditions speaking out is fraught with risk. They look to places where corruption has been curtailed and where the rule of law holds sway to show leadership.
In Britain our politicians and officials mostly act with honesty and integrity and it is only right that we help to tackle a problem that is holding back many developing nations. Telling a few home truths, as the Prime Minister did yesterday, is not such a bad thing.