Our Special Relationship

Prime Minister on US TV

Now now. I’m not here to talk about why my public school education has left me ill equipped to answer questions about British culture. That’s for my researchers. (Photo taken from BBC News site)

For the life of me, I cannot see what David Cameron was thinking. Stiff as a waterboard, there he went, onto Letterman to face an audience of my compatriots, supposedly to “bang the drum of British business”. Did he not think that BP had done enough damage? He was very worthy and neither likeable nor wholeheartedly dislikeable, just affirming to America that, like the perception of British food, this country’s people are as insipid and as humourless as salty Scottish gruel. So worthy and so bland.

Somewhat bizarrely, much like his first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons — not as Prime Minister but in opposition facing off against Tony in his last days — he seemed to come off very left of centre, which may suggest he knows how to play a Letterman audience after all. Facts of existence in the UK like the absence of gun usage and the thought of carrying a gun being incomprehensible drew cheers from the live audience, as did the fact that political parties are not allowed to advertise on British TV. Period.

But the point of the exercise still baffles me. Letterman controlled the banter and all the best lines were his, as they should be, so the only motivation one can possible detect is that this appearance is the latest in the bizarre oneupmanship contest between Cameron and the more affably charismatic Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who also appeared on Letterman in June, and who, unlike Cameron, took an equal share of the best lines and drew a much better reaction from the audience with all his bumbling and foppish Freudian slips (Letterman: Would you ban giant sodas [as Bloomberg has done]? Johnson: I I I… We’re not that… We’re not that… Whilst I am certainly bigger than Mike [Bloomberg], as a city, we’re not that… … fat. YET. [hearty and appreciative, self-deprecating guffaws from the audience]).

Much as it kills me to admit it, Boris is one conservative that I don’t wholeheartedly disagree with on all policies. He opposes a third runway at Heathrow, is pro-public transport, pro-cyclist, and stood up to Romney over the summer when Mitt paraded his blustering ignorance in the field of statesmanship doubting out loud that the capital could handle the Olympics. He’s very far from perfect, but his interview is well worth watching and quite entertaining.

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6 responses

  1. Poor poor pitiful Dave, I would have paid stupid money to watch Jon Stewart have a go.

    1. Me too, Duchess. Me too. Mind, if he looked uncomfortable and awkward with Letterman, Stewart would have murdered him.

  2. Gotta agree with you on Cameron and Johnson. Usually the British have interesting people at the top who handle themselves well in interviews. Though the Conservatives also had John Major.

    How is Nick Clegg doing? I ask this only because I found out that he was at the University of Minnesota one year while I was there working on my PhD. I knew of “Nick” and chatted with him a few times, but gee, if I had known he’d become big in British politics I’d have tried to get to know him better!

    1. Well, I honestly still think Boris was pretty witty and entertaining, but it was also pointed out the other day on The News Quiz that whereas Thatcher and Major came from FAIRLY humble backgrounds, we now have Etonian toffs ruling over us plebs and referring to us as such (google “Andrew Mitchell Plebs” I’d actually be very interested to see how you think that story would play out in the States. If we were near an election cycle, Mitchell would have given the conservatives their 47% moment proving to everyone what everyone assumes about the Tories anyway) and it is possible that they find it hard to come across as anything except out of touch.

      Big is relative in politics, as you know. Clegg is famously the man who traded his conscience to be Deputy Prime Minister. At the time that he made his decision, some naively bandied about the phrase, “Conservatives with a conscience.” It takes more than a coalition partner to give the Conservatives a conscience. As was predicted in some corners as well, The Lib Dems were outmanoeuvred by the Conservatives so that Clegg’s popularity has taken the biggest hit for the most unpopular cuts made by his Coalition partners so that by the next election cycle they could easily see themselves squeezed out of government altogether with Labour having as good a shot of getting back in. In the meantime, the party that used to be seen as having some integrity is now seen as standing by and letting election promises be broken while the Conservatives cut like the Fates of Ancient Greek mythology. Of course, being a third party in opposition and appearing to uphold integrity is also probably a lot easier than being in power, but look for the Lib Dems to support Vince Cable making an end run for the party leadership in two years or so as a last ditch way of saving themselves from a drubbing in the polls.

      I do wonder how many times, after a conversation with Cameron, that Clegg has uttered under his breath the words of Buckingham in Richard III, “Made I him king for this?”

  3. Apart from charismatic US presidents like Obama and Clinton, and the odd historic figure like Mandela, heads of other countries’ governments rarely translate, even if they speak the same language. For a US audience it must be about as compelling as Jonathan Ross interviewing the Taoiseach would be for us.

  4. Oh I don’t know. I hear Tony Blair’s quite the popular prof at Yale and I have no doubt he could still tour the American chat shows with the best of them, not that I’d like to see him on a chat show, but I have a feeling he still retains a certain aura for my compatriots.

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