UK & World News
Cameron Stumped By Letterman's History Quiz
David Cameron has admitted he might need to mug up on British history after being embarrassed by an impromptu quiz on the Letterman show in the US.
Quizzed on the Late Show, the Eton and Oxford-educated Prime Minister could not explain the meaning of the Magna Carta and did not know who composed Rule Britannia.
Remarking on his errors during the interview to host David Letterman, Mr Cameron joked: "That is bad. I have ended my career on your show tonight."
Asked how he rated his performance on arriving in Brazil on Thursday, he added: "I'm a history obsessive, so I'm sorry I didn't do better.
"I think, when I get home and do my children's homework, maybe I need to sit down and do a little bit extra myself."
The PM was welcomed onto what is one of America's most watched chat shows on Wednesday night to the tune of the house band playing Rule Britannia and dry ice pumping into the studio to replicate London fog.
Tony Blair has been on the CBS show twice since leaving office and Mayor of London Boris Johnson appeared recently, but Mr Cameron is the first serving British PM to take part.
After a brief discussion of issues surrounding Syria and the Arab Spring - the subject of his speech to the United Nations earlier in the day - Letterman confronted the PM with a truly tough question - who wrote Rule Britannia?
A flummoxed Mr Cameron made a guess at Edward Elgar, only to learn from Letterman's researchers that it was in fact the little-known Thomas Arne, setting words by James Thomson to music.
He was also at a loss for an answer when asked for the English translation of Magna Carta - Great Charter - and hesitated a while before naming Runnymede as the location of its signing.
But he immediately named 1215 as the date it was drawn up and was able to give an account of its importance in the birth of democracy.
Letterman also questioned the PM about the four nations of the UK, asking: "What is the deal on Wales? Did they vote for you, the people of Wales?" "Some of them did," replied Mr Cameron.
The PM raised applause from the audience when he hailed London's successful hosting of the Olympics and Paralympics this summer.
But, after being teased about his privileged background and public school accent, he admitted he was "not very popular at the moment" - blaming his low ratings on the austerity drive.
Mr Cameron had to correct Letterman when he talked about "the British empire" - "it's not an empire, it's the United Kingdom," he interrupted - and when the host suggested Northern Ireland was "part of England".
He also prompted the studio audience to laugh by joking about Britain's historic relations with the US.
"There were some good bits and some less than good bits, and obviously we had a bit of a falling out," he said. "I like to think we've got over that now."
Stressing his determination to forge good relations with whoever wins the US election, he added: "I have got on well with Republicans, I can get on well with Democrats."
The loudest applause of the 15-minute interview came when he said Britain does not allow political advertising on TV - a major issue in the US, as both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have spent lavishly on "attack ads".
He also revealed that it was thanks to TV that he was first recognised in the US, when he was walking in New York and a passer-by shouted: "Hey! Prime Minister's Questions! We love your show!"
It is understood that Mr Cameron's team approached the Late Show to let them know he would be available during his visit to the UN.
The long-running programme has a daily audience of around three million but Letterman is known for off-the-wall questions, making the offer a slight risk.
A government source said: "It is just a good opportunity. Britain has had an extraordinary year with the Jubilee, with the Olympics and the Paralympics. We have got something good to shout about.
"So getting out there, talking up Britain is important. We should never forget that we are the biggest investor in America, America is the biggest investor in us."
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what do you think?
I wonder if contemporary British school children are taught anything about Magna Carta; probably doesn't fit with the eduka-shun "diversity" agenda. Although, why is a serving British Prime Minister appearing on an American chat show? A) Will the Americans know who he is or care B) Hasn't he got more important and pressing concerns to be addressed?
Oh dear, how embarrassing .. I hope David gets over it and it won't tarnish the rest of his life. We'll all be here quietly suffering in the UK David while you jolly off playing the circuits if you need a hug.
no surprise, the money wasted on private education. though your guaranteed the results, and its better to be in the club than out.
This post is people in glass houses throwing boulders.
Absolute slime ball. Get him on the Jeremy Kyle show and release the chavs on him.
Yeah the chavs who don't bother working and spend all their benefit money on drugs, cigarettes, tattoos and drink, us poor tax payers should be let loose on the chavs.
Ah steve- you lap up that right winged propaganda as if it were just media hype to take your attention away from this current robbery, sorry recession that was created by the rich. My my we have a long way to go with this revolution of minds :(
I refuse to believe that he did not know the meaning of " Magna Carta ", he gave a wrong answer for a reason.
So Cameron is an idiot.No surprise really
how many people no matter where educated honestly know the answers , i certainly dont !!
True, Mike. In any case, it's far more important to know it's significance in English history than what it means or when or where it was signed.
......A GOOD MOVE DC !!!!!!!!!
Brian E Gorton
Oxford Uni !! The maker of half wit's.Just for you David.Great Charta of the Liberties of England.Granted by King John at Runnymede in year 1215.
Someone's been on wikipiedia.
It doesn't take much to stump Cameron its been said many times over the past 2 years he hasn't a clue about British history or our way of life or traditions.He is one of the worst of the new breed of politicians who lead with their mouths saying what they believe the people want to hear usually before they get elected ,then they pursue their own private agenda backed by weird pressure groups,such as ill informed environmentle fanatics anti christian zealots and on the other side wealth plundering bankers and tax dodging industrialists. It doesn't matter who you vote for their policies are all the same they are nothing but slaves to their backers.Letterman is wasting his time with that Bozzo. To Cameron the Magna Carter is something you wipe your feet on.
You're right Mr Shakes. Anybody with half an education knows that Magna Carter was a famous snooker player created in Colchester in 1979.
I find the words :- I have ended my career on your show tonight." very revealing. Thats all these jokers are -- career politicians. Not in it to help you and I, not in it out of any great conviction to help the country, not in it to end any great social ills but purely to keep themselves in a cushy little number and of course to avoid getting ones hands dirty in a real job. They make me sick, all of them
In 2010 he spoke about WW11 and said that from 1939 we were the second fighters and the USA were first. The American President said NO. We did not start until 1942. So Cameron has a silly mind. If he had this in England then about 80% of the voters would say he is useless and should be out as Prime Minister
The Great Charter was drawn up by the nobility to curb the kings power and had sod all to do with the rights of the commoners.
True but it laid the foundations for democracy and the curb of absolute power of leaders ever since.
gengisken is correct and also everyone has the right to a trial by jury that has its origins in the Magna Carta. But sadly this govrnment is trying to do away with much of this and introduce more secret courts in high profile cases if you don't believe me read any newspaper.
Big mistake going on Letterman. He knows exaclty what Magna Carta means, he was just playing to the crowd!
Once again Michael!!!!! He didnt have the guts to embarrass Bush in that way, did he?
Now the whole World will find out how stupid our leaders are!how Embarrassing!!
Good job Letterman wasnt interviewing ex. President Bush then?????? He is even more stupid
NIce to see this idiot has his priorities in order. This is really going to get the country back on its feet.
"He is one of the worst of the new breed of politicians who lead with their mouths saying what they believe the people want to hear usually before they get elected. They then pursue their own private agenda backed by weird pressure groups,such as ill informed environmental fanatics anti christian zealots and on the other side wealth plundering bankers and tax dodging industrialists. It doesn't matter who you vote for their policies are all the same they are nothing but slaves to their backers." It's always a compliment to quote another poster. I do not know who the anti christian zealots are mind you.
Windows Live User
Definitely the product of an expensive education. Ah that we all had a privileged upbringing. Good old Daddy
he is just a pretender like many normal Citizen in the UK.But obviously not clever enough,he is what they are playing with.!!!! Wait until the European leaders are watching this !!! They will play with him as well.HOW embarrassing!!!David!! Well done Mr LETTERMAN,you are a good player!!