In comments that were caught by a microphone during a reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, the prime minister said Nigeria and Afghanistan were two of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Speaking in front of the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the House of Commons speaker, John Bercow, and the cabinet minister Chris Grayling, Cameron said: “We had a very successful cabinet meeting this morning. We talked about our anti-corruption summit. We’ve got … some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain.
“Nigeria and Afghanistan are possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world.” The Queen did not respond to Cameron’s comment, turning her head away while he was speaking. However, Welby, who has worked in Nigeria, then said of that country’s leader: “But this particular president is actually not corrupt.”
Asked whether David Cameron regretted his comment, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Both leaders have been invited to the summit because they are driving the fight against corruption in their countries. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with them as they do so.”
The spokesman declined to say whether the Nigerian or Afghan governments had contacted Downing Street following the prime minister’s remarks. He made clear that the PM was aware that he was being filmed at the time he spoke, telling reporters:
“The cameras were very close to him. There were multiple cameras in the room.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “The royal household does not comment on private conversations between the prime minister and the Queen.”