Queen, British PM Caught on Camera Making Diplomatic Gaffes

Aditi Khanna/London
Queen, British PM Caught on Camera Making Diplomatic Gaffes

Queen Elizabeth II and David Cameron were both caught on camera making diplomatic gaffes, with the British monarch referring to Chinese officials to be "very rude" and the Prime Minister telling her that Nigeria and Afghanistan are among the world's "most corrupt" countries.

Queen's comments, which were aired today, were recorded by an official royal cameraman during a Buckingham Palace garden party and were unusual because she never comments publicly on political matters.

The 90-year-old Queen was discussing Chinese officials' treatment of Britain's ambassador to China Barbara Woodward during President Xi Jinping's visit to the UK last October.

The camera caught Scotland Yard Commander Lucy D'Orsi telling the Queen that arranging the state visit for President Xi had been a "testing time" and that (Chinese) officials had walked out of a meeting, saying the trip was off.

"I'm not sure whether you knew, but it was quite a testing time for me," she said. The Queen is heard replying: "I did".

The Queen went on to say that members of the Chinese delegation "were very rude to the ambassador" and exclaiming: "Extraordinary!".

The police commander agreed, saying, "It was very rude and very undiplomatic I thought".

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: "We do 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."

In another diplomatic gaffe, Prime Minister Cameron was filmed telling the Queen that Nigeria and Afghanistan are two of the "most corrupt" countries in the world.

Cameron made the remarks ahead of the anti-corruption summit tomorrow, at which Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari will deliver a keynote address entitled "Why we must tackle corruption together".

The Prime Minister who will be the host of the summit was overheard telling the monarch that "leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries" would be attending the meeting, before singling out the two nations.

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

The Queen did not immediately respond but Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has worked in Nigeria when he was an oil executive, quickly cut in. "But this particular president is actually not corrupt," he said, insisting that Buhari was "trying very hard".

A spokesman for Buhari, who won elections last year vowing to fight corruption, said he was deeply "shocked and embarrassed" by the comments, which he assumed must refer to problems in Nigeria that pre-dated his presidency.

An official in the Afghan embassy described the intervention as "unfair", arguing the country had made important progress in this area. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani will also be attending tomorrow's conference.

In Beijing, answering a barrage of questions on the Queen's remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang sought to play down controversy.

"President Xi's visit to the UK last year was a very successful one. Both sides have made great efforts for the success of the visit and the two sides highly recognised that," Lu said.

Asked whether at any point Chinese officials wanted to call it off, he said he is not aware of any such move.

Meanwhile, Chinese media blocked BBC and CNN's coverage of reports about the comments by Queen.

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