While the Queen is something of a pro who has been doing this sort of charm offensive stuff all her life, Mr Cameron tends to tell the audience whatever it wants to hear
LIZ was unexpectedly light of touch, but if you’re still waiting around for an apology, it’s just possible Dodgy Dave might do the dirty work.
British premier David Cameron just loves to feel loved, especially on foreign soil — which has got him into some sticky situations during his first year in power.
While the Queen is something of an old pro who has been doing this sort of international charm offensive stuff all her life and manages to sprinkle just enough majesty to transfix attention, Mr Cameron is a mercurial politician with less confidence and much less experience who tends to tell the listening audience whatever he thinks it wants to hear.
This was at its most slippery during his recent tour of the Middle East when Mr Cameron repeatedly trumpeted his commitment to the Arab democracy uprisings — while leading a multi-billion-pound arms trade delegation intent on selling weapons to many of the very regimes their own people want gone.
And though usually solidly pro-Israel at home, Mr Cameron suddenly used a trip to Turkey to denounce the blockade of Gaza for creating “a prison camp” — the strongest attack on Israeli human rights/foreign policy ever launched by a British prime minister.
In India, Cameron tapped into the host audience’s deep distrust of neighbouring Pakistan by accusing it of “facing both ways” on terrorism.
This in turn resulted in him having to try and rebuild damaged relations with Pakistan by making a special visit to the country and producing soothing noises about the key source of tension between the two south Asian nuclear powers — the division of Kashmir, an open wound that has already caused three wars between them.
The British gave the majority Muslim state to India in the partition of 1947 because it had a Hindu prince, which, given the mother country’s other arbitrary partition of two-thirds of the Northern counties, and its League of Nations mandate carve-up of Palestine, probably made perfect sense to London at the time.
A sheepish Mr Cameron realised he could not have a go at the Indians as the Pakistanis would like, so he decided to take a more self-aware/self-loathing line with his hosts and admit that Britain was responsible for the Kashmir conflict and also “responsible for many of the world’s problems”.
Simple, job done, Pakistan is assuaged, Britain blamed, and India still sweet because they think Downing Street is winking at them about Islamabad’s double dealing.
But unfortunately for Mr Cameron this only succeeded in getting him into even more of a pickle with the right wing of his Conservative Party, whichhas never forgiven him for the indignity of (falsely) painting them as social liberals and failing to deliver a Commons majority at last year’s general election despite the biggest economic slump for 80 years and an opponent in Gordon Brown who seemed to have a political death wish.
Indeed, Mr Cameron seems to be rather unworldly in these things and it completely failed to occur to him how incendiary the “we’re to blame for everything” line that got him out of hot water in the sub-continent would play back in Blighty — even though most subjects of the former empire would probably agree with his geopolitical rationale.
Cameron was so surprised to learn his remarks had led to outraged and thundering front-page treatment back home that he reportedly turned to a journalist from one of the offending newspapers who was travelling on his plane from Pakistan and said: “You fucker!”
So, if Dave is let loose here, who knows what kind of apology we might get? Especially as many in Westminster (including Tories) brand him the posh David Brent of British politics due to his cringe-making sense of humour.
As seen when he recently shouted across the Commons chamber: “Calm down dear, calm down!” to a woman Labour shadow cabinet member who was berating him.
The woman, Angela Eagle, responded with: “I’ve been patronised by better people than the prime minister” — and that’s exactly how some people here see his offer to let the Olympic torch pass through Ireland on its way to London as a thank you for us not being beastly to the Queen.
Certainly, given the trouble the worldwide tour of the flame got into on the way to the Beijing in 2008 when it was routinely attacked by anti-Chinese demonstrators, it would be best to avoid certain parts of Dublin if the response to the Queen by a small, but noisy, group of protestors is anything to go by.
But they did not speak for all of Ireland which has been largely won over by the little lady from Windsor. She was never going to give an apology for 800 years of oppression, it is not her ceremonial role and if she started with Ireland, where would it ever end?
The Queen did in fact go a lot further than was reasonably expected with her pointed bow to the heroes of various republican uprisings at the Garden of Remembrance, her words of Irish, and her speech at the state banquet which spoke of regrets and sympathy for all those who suffered due to the troubled past of the two islands and how some things should have been done differently, and other things not at all.
The fact she also effectively turned up with €4.6 billion in her handbag to lend us so that we can afford to keep our hospitals going and social welfare cheques cashed should also not be forgotten by those pelting the gardaí with rocks in protest at her visit.
The status of the North was democratically decided in the first and only all-island vote since 1918 when the Good Friday Agreement was ratified ensuring unification would only come when a majority in the North endorsed it (which on purely crude, religious demographic terms could yet happen within a generation).
Cameron just tipped-up for the Dublin Castle meal, then popped to the Guinness Storehouse with Enda for breakfast, so we did not really get a chance to put pressure on him his special version of verbal hand-wringing this time around.
But did Tony Blair’s apology for the Famine really make a difference to anything? Should the US apologise for stating in its original constitution that slaves are worth three-fifths of white people ? And what would be the point of that now the country has elected a black man as president?
The Queen came, she saw — and while it would be politically unfortunate given her historical lineage to say she conquered — she certainly concurred with a wave of good will.