David Cameron has made history – by becoming the first UK prime minister to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman while still serving the post.
Faced with an extensive quiz on UK culture and the nation’s history, Mr. Cameron divided critics on both sides of the Atlantic following his appearance on Wednesday night.
While the British PM scored top marks with most of Letterman’s questions, he was unable to name the composer of Rule Britannia, or translate ‘Magna Carta’ into English.
Mr. Cameron’s appearance on the show followed an earlier attendance at the UN, where he made the call for further action to stem the growing crisis in Syria. Delivering the keynote speech to the assembly, he called on world leaders to respond to the horrific torture and senseless murder of innocents and children by Bashar Assad’s regime.
Prior to the show, Mr. Cameron stated that his high-profile appearance on the David Letterman Show would be used in part to “bang the drum” for the UK, encouraging the show’s three million viewers to visit Britain and thus benefit the economy. The Late Show has become one of the most long-standing and celebrated of its kind in the history of US television, with previous political guests including Tony Blair, Boris Johnson and Barack Obama.
Along with a rousing rendition of Rule Britannia, Mr. Cameron was welcomed onto the set with a blast of dry ice apparently brought in to replicate the fog of London.
With the PM’s trip to the UN having only been briefly touched upon, Letterman moved onto questioning Mr. Cameron about various aspects of UK history and culture.
When quizzed on Rule Britannia, he incorrectly guessed its composer as Edward Elgar. He also fell short of translating ‘Magna Carter’ into English – the correct translation being ‘Great Charter.’ He was however able to answer where and when it was signed, which he followed with an insight into its significance as a cornerstone of democracy.
Mr. Cameron appeared to strike a chord with the audience while joking about the “special” relationship the UK has with the US.
“There were some good bits and some less than good bits, and obviously we had a bit of a falling out. I like to think we’ve got over that now.”
He also earned a generous ovation upon mention of the recently concluded 2012 Olympic Games held in London, while carefully avoiding any response to Mitt Romney’s previous comments regarding London’s readiness for the Games – or lack thereof.
“The idea that two major world class athletics events took place in London… who would have bet against that going off flawlessly, as it seems to have done?” asked Letterman.
The biggest cheer of the night however was reserved for Mr. Cameron’s mention of the way in which the UK forbids political advertising, which forms a billion-dollar industry in the US as presidential candidates discredit and slander each-other with extreme ferocity.