Saturday 14 May 2016

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

What a week it has been for Palace and Number 10. Tell you what, though. I would be surprised if camera crews were invited back to Buckingham. First, David Cameron was overheard on an open mic telling the Queen that at the anti-corruption summit he would be chairing later on this week there would be “leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries”. A day after, it was her Majesty’s turn to join gaffe-prone Cameron when she was caught on camera saying that during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Britain last year some of his officials were “very rude” to the British ambassador. How do you say handbags at dawn in Mandarin again?

Hearing the Queen speak is akin to finding out supermodel Kate Moss has a voice. Neither of them speaks frequently in public. Her Majesty’s main television gig is on Christmas. As for Kate, having once overheard her talking to one of her mates on Regent Street many years ago (before realising it was that Kate Moss!), the less she opens her gob, the better. All I can say is that on that day and for less than a minute I learnt a whole new vocabulary of English swearwords.

One is not amused, I tell you.

My only observation regarding the Queen’s remarks is that she ought to look closer to home before calling other people “very rude”. Liz happens to be married to a man who once asked Australian aborigines: “Do you still throw spears at each other?” There are entire websites dedicated to Prince Philip’s bloopers, from his “British women can’t cook” to “If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty–eyed" (said to a group of British exchange students who were living in China. Perhaps the Chinese officials were only avenging their compatriots’ wounded honour).

As for Cameron and his now thoroughly-scrutinised “leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries” comment (after which he singled out both Afghanistan and Nigeria as the chief culprits) it would be better if he spent more time analysing the causes of that corruption instead of indulging in a pointless finger-pointing exercise. Corruption does not happen in a vacuum.

Corruption is not the same as theft. The former is a slow-burning, deep, bottomless, ground-digging process in which participants do not just happen to belong to developing nations. Whereas we can trace corruption in poor countries to bad governance, puppet – usually military – dignitaries and cronyism, the dirty money that comes from this vice must be “cleaned”, or laundered (to give it its proper name) somewhere. Somewhere where property is easy to buy and tax laws are lax. Somewhere like a “tax haven”. Unfortunately, there are not that many tax havens in Afghanistan and Nigeria. But in Britain? Well, read again the recent headlines on the Panama Papers.

We are talking about a triangulation between the City of London, the Crown’s dependencies and overseas territories and assets such as property. Especially property in London and other major metropolitan centres around the country. Let’s talk about this and maybe Cameron’s comment could be placed in its rightful context. He is the leader of a fantastically corrupt nation. And in the same way it happens in poorer countries, it is not the average Joe or Joanna who is corrupt but the combo of politicians and newly-arrived oligarchs.

Out of the two gaffes, the Queen was always going to able to get away with hers because the monarchy has come back into fashion with a vengeance. Part of that it’s the “Will’n’Kate” effect. Part of that as well is that Liz very rarely opens her mouth and therefore we, the Palace-upkeep-funding, tax-paying public, have no idea what to make of her. Cameron would do well to learn that lesson. Always look out for microphones on the loose.

© 2016

Next Post: “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music… Ad infinitum”, to be published on Wednesday 18th May at 6pm (GMT)


  1. Lots of food for thought here. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. David Cameron often strikes me as very inept, in amongst all his other faults. And as for corruption the City of London is a well known tax haven..... The book Treasure islands, the name of the author escapes me, but is an excellent expose of tax havens

  3. Those affixing labels almost always need to look close to home don't they?
    And you are so very right today. About corruption, and about rudeness.
    Love the Depeche Mode clip too.

  4. Yep, always do as I say not as I do type of mentality. This case it would be officials/countries. Plus they are kinda useless, just status figures, whoopee.

  5. Rudeness comes largely, I think, from individuals who are unhappy with themselves and their lives, and who wish to make others equally miserable.

    Corruption is likely to exist in every municipality, every business, every circle of government, from the smallest to the largest. It is just a matter of degrees. It originates in what Donald Trump labels "making deals" and "doing business." (And, remember, he states that he is the very best deal maker.) Sooner or later, someone offers an "extra incentive" under the table and another accepts it, and the process is never the same again.

  6. Great post. And I wonder who is defining 'corruption'? Cameron seems to be putting an inquiry into election expenses in a 'woops, we might have made a mistake' category.

    And where is the line between tipping (reward for good service) and bribery (reward before service)? My brother worked for an organisation that tried to bring new farming methods to parts of Africa, and they imported big machines - that no one would unload without being paid first. But the company said no, that's corruption, we'll have nothing to do with that. So the machines stayed on the loaders until the planting season was passed. So they couldn't even find out if new systems worked!

  7. Hi ACIL - were they all gaffes ... and yes corruption is nasty undermining to help someone, who probably doesn't need that help .. whereas so many need security of a decent, thoughtful, society - which maintains fairness.

    Interesting post ... we do live in interesting times ... cheers Hilary

  8. And of course we can't leave out the religious greats.... or not so great. Oh but, I forgot, they're more into interfering ... with youngsters.

  9. Well, I don't think that anyone who spends a lot of time in the public eye can escape being caught in some gaffes sometime. I would hate to always have to be on guard for microphones or reporters scrutinizing my every move. As far as corruption goes, it is definitely rampant everywhere.

  10. I have bee noccupied with ESC this week :) My ears are well trained by now.

  11. "Corruption does not happen in a vacuum." Brilliant--this should be carved in a wall someplace for all politicians to see.

  12. I haven't read about so many political miss-quotes since the Bush administration.

  13. creeps in through the tiniest cracks, doesn't it? And it certainly doesn't happen in a vacuum!
    Gosh, how awful it must be to be living in the public eye, and having to constantly be on your guard just in case someone's listening in.
    Don't think I would survive it...:/

    Love the Depeche Mode clip!
    Certainly revived a few memories for me.
    Many thanks! :))

  14. Interesting and fun post, I read about the Queen's one earlier.

  15. A fine post and some great comments here.. Fram Actual in particular.

  16. Oh and I meant to say that I just love your header photo. Beautiful!



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