Daily Express

Did the Queen and Cameron speak out intentiona­lly?


THE world of diplomacy is riddled with deceit and hypocrisy. Political representa­tives continuall­y seek to maintain their facade of good relations by hiding their real views about other countries. As the American satirist Ambrose Bierce once put it, “Diplomacy means lying in state”.

However, sometimes the curtain is ripped away, providing us with a delicious glimpse into what our leaders actually think. This week has provided us with two such moments, both of which involved our sovereign.

One of them occurred at the first Buckingham Palace garden party of the summer, when the Queen was recorded in conversati­on with Commander Lucy D’Orsi, the senior police officer in charge of security during the Chinese state visit last year. Responding to the Commander’s account of the “testing time” she had experience­d, Her Majesty said that some of the Chinese officials had been “very rude”, adding that their behaviour on one occasion, when they had walked out of a meeting, was “extraordin­ary”.

Remarkably, the other incident happened on the same day at Buckingham Palace, this time at a reception to mark her 90th birthday. Once more, a camera picked up a rare outburst of candour as David Cameron told the Queen of the arrangemen­ts for his anticorrup­tion summit in London.

WITH ill-concealed relish at the irony, he explained that some “fantastica­lly corrupt” nations had been invited, including Nigeria and Afghanista­n, “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”.

Inevitably the diplomatic reaction from the two countries has been indignant, while much of the media has predictabl­y described the remarks as “gaffes”. But there should be no cause for embarrassm­ent. As Noel Coward once said: “It is discouragi­ng to think how many people are shocked by honesty.” In both these cases the truth was spoken.

The Queen was absolutely right to express her dismay over aspects of the Chinese state visit, a stiff, awkward event that had signified our humiliatin­g collusion with a totalitari­an regime. Prince Charles revealed what he thought of the Chinese leadership by staying away from the official banquet last year, having just as famously described the ruling Communists as “appalling old waxworks” during his visit to Hong Kong in 1997.

Cameron was right to lambast Nigeria and Afghanista­n for their institutio­nalised corruption. Amid all his scaremonge­ring about the supposed risks of Brexit, these have probably been the most truthful comments he has made in recent days.

In Nigeria, according to the Independen­t Commission for Aid Impact, “petty corruption touches virtually every aspect of life and is accepted as normal and necessary”. This should be a rich country because of its massive oil reserves, yet much of the nation’s potential wealth has been lost through abuse and theft. At the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporatio­n alone, it is estimated that at least $20billion has gone missing from the accounts.

Afghanista­n is as bad, with bribery, nepotism and fraud endemic. The New York Times once wrote that “corruption can no longer be described as a cancer on the system. It is the system.”

Given that the Queen and Cameron were expressing their opinions, it is intriguing to speculate as to whether these two incidents were manufactur­ed deliberate­ly. After all both of them are massively experience­d operators, wellused to demonstrat­ing restraint at events where cameras and microphone­s are present. The Queen has spent 64 years on the throne with barely a moment of political controvers­y, while Cameron has been Tory leader for 11 years, renowned for his smoothness.

Most commentato­rs have dismissed the idea that they acted intentiona­lly, though some Chinese critics have claimed that the Queen’s exchange with Commander D’Orsi comes across as “scripted and unnatural”.

It is also interestin­g that the cameraman responsibl­e for recording the footage in both cases was the enormously respected Peter Wilkinson. No freelance maverick, he has worked with the monarch for 18 years. So perhaps the Queen wanted her frustratio­ns with Chinese officialdo­m to be known publicly, just as Cameron may have wanted to crank up the internatio­nal pressures in advance of his summit.

BUT this begs another question: if Cameron really believes that Afghanista­n and Nigeria are “fantastica­lly corrupt” then why is he pouring so much British taxpayers’ money into them in the form of foreign aid? In the past year they have pocketed no less than £435million in cash from our Government, an increase of 35 per cent since Cameron took office in 2010.

Yet because of corruption so much has been squandered. One survey found that a multimilli­on pound programme in Nigeria to boost education had produced “no major improvemen­t”. A report by the Internatio­nal Crisis Group on Afghanista­n found that, despite the aid, “institutio­ns remain… unable to provide good governance”.

These two corrupt nations illustrate so much that is wrong with our aid budget – a gigantic £12billion a year project to feed the vanity of our politician­s. Far from fuelling developmen­t it entrenches fraudulenc­e and dependency. The real act of honesty would be to end this organised larceny masqueradi­ng as compassion.

‘Both are massively experience­d operators’

 ?? Picture: AFP/GETTY ?? PARTY TALK: Her Majesty with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister
Picture: AFP/GETTY PARTY TALK: Her Majesty with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom