David Cameron found wanting on British history by David Letterman

PM fairs badly in pop quiz on British history during interview with American talk-show host

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 4:45am


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British Prime Minister David Cameron has been found lacking in an impromptu quiz on his country's history by American talk-show host David Letterman.

Cameron, who was visiting New York to attend the UN General Assembly, joked that his failure to provide the answers had "ended his career".

Letterman stumped Cameron with questions about the composer of Rule Britannia (Thomas Arne set a 1740 poem by James Thomson, a Scot, to music) and the meaning of "Magna Carta", the name of the founding document of the nation's democracy (it means "Great Charter" in Latin).

"You've found me out," Cameron joked. "I've ended my career on your show tonight."

During the interview on CBS' popular Late Show with David Letterman, Cameron admitted that he was "not very popular at the moment".

"We have got this big budget deficit, so we have had to do a lot of cuts and we have made a lot of difficult decisions, so that makes you unpopular," the prime minister said.

Cameron defended his government's decision not to join the group of European nations that are using the common euro currency.

"I think you are going to end up effectively with some form of single government," he said. "I don't want to be part of a country called Europe."

Cameron drew applause from the studio audience when he outlined British rules that limit spending on political campaigns.

"We don't allow political parties to advertise on television," said Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, which formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats after general elections in 2010.

He sidestepped the issue of gun control, saying that while his nation favours tough laws, he could "respect" the US tradition of gun ownership rights.

Cameron spent the earlier part of Wednesday meeting Middle Eastern leaders and addressing the UN. In his speech, he risked newly improved relations with Russia by saying countries that refuse to condemn Syria's regime have blood on their hands.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has twice appeared on Letterman's show since leaving office, making Cameron the first serving British prime minister to be a guest on the programme.

US President Barack Obama appeared on the show last week.

Appearing as a guest alongside Cameron in the British-themed episode of the show was actor Jonny Lee Miller, promoting his television series Elementary, a fresh take on fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. British folk-rock band Mumford & Sons provided the music.