David Cameron has described Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt” in a conversation with the Queen.
The PM was talking about the forthcoming anti-corruption summit when he made the comments. “We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world,” Mr Cameron said.
Number 10 said the PM was aware he was being filmed as he was speaking. “The cameras were very close to him. There were multiple cameras in the room,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
After Mr Cameron’s comments, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby intervened to say: “But this particular president is not corrupt… he’s trying very hard,” before Speaker John Bercow said: “They are coming at their own expense, one assumes?”
The conversation took place at Buckingham Palace at an event to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Correspondent James Landale described the PM’s comments as a “truthful gaffe”, because the two countries involved were widely perceived as having a corruption problem. Afghanistan was ranked at 167, ahead of only Somalia and North Korea, in Transparency International’s 2015 corruption perception index. Nigeria was at 136.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari won elections last year promising to fight widespread corruption in Africa’s largest oil producer.
The government will host world and business leaders at the summit on Thursday in London, aiming to “galvanise a global response to tackle corruption”.
Speaking ahead of the summit, Mr Cameron said: “For too long there has been a taboo about tackling this issue head-on. “The summit will change that. Together we will push the fight against corruption to the top of the international agenda where it belongs.”
Last year Mr Cameron was recorded talking about Yorkshire people “hating each other” – and he was previously caught revealing how the Queen “purred” with pleasure when he told her the Scottish independence referendum result.
Asked whether Mr Cameron had apologised to the Queen over the corruption remarks, his official spokesman said the presidents of Nigeria and Afghanistan had “acknowledged the scale of the corruption challenge they face in their countries”.