David Cameron’s terrible Australian accent is a resigning issue

30 November 2011

David Cameron’s terrible attempt at an Australian accent is a resigning issue. There, I said it. I am not suggesting that a mastery of impressions is a necessary, or even desirable, quality for a Prime Minister. That might result in Rory Bremner exercising Vladimir Putin style control over British politics for the foreseeable future.

But I am suggesting that standing up at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet last week and pretending Julia Gillard sounds like she is one of the blokes off the Foster’s adverts is unacceptable behaviour for someone who is supposed to be representing the UK. That he admitted earlier in his speech that he watches Downton Abbey only serves to confirm that conclusion.

It is hard to know what Cameron thought he was going to achieve. Perhaps he thought it would be funny, which raises serious questions about his judgement. I suppose it was funny, but only in the sense that watching a grown man embarrassing himself live on television is funny.

Undeniably amusing yes, but not the sort of thing the Prime Minister should be doing on a regular basis. Perhaps he was trying to emulate Boris Johnson. Perhaps he is just an idiot in his own right.

And did Julia Gillard really say that the changes to the law on inheriting the throne are ‘good news for Sheilas everywhere’? If she did, Cameron should have known better than to repeat it. Besides the changes only being good news for one ‘Sheila’, the hypothetical one who is currently nothing more than a vague sense of duty and expectation hanging over the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, ‘Sheila’ is a loaded word.

It is not a catch-all for women everywhere, rather it is generally associated with a crude caricature- think the ‘Sheila’s Wheels’ car insurance adverts. In sense Cameron was suggesting that women everywhere, including the not-yet-existent ‘little girl’ who might one day be heir to the throne, are ditsy blondes. People do not actually use the word in Australian conversation, just like you have to work quite hard to find someone called Bruce. Australia is not one big Monty Python sketch.

But David Cameron spends most of his time acting like he is in one. Terrible accents were not the only way he made a fool of himself at that dinner. There is something surreal about someone with a background as privileged as his cracking jokes about how he wishes ‘Mr Bates’ had been there to help him put on his white tie.

Is it funny because he actually does have a man for that? Or because, having been wearing full evening dress since he was old enough to crawl, he does not actually need any help at all? People who are posh enough to be upstairs in Downtown Abbey should not make jokes about being in Downtown Abbey. That he is supposed to be running the country in an ‘age of austerity’ is just the icing on the cake.

And as I mentioned earlier he is not only running the country, he is representing us on an international stage. Recently he has been negotiating with the Angela Merkel. But that is alright I suppose; it is not as if he has a history of bad German accents too, does he?

It is not as if in a town hall meeting in 2009 he compared the introduction of ID cards to being stopped while walking your dog and asked ‘vere are you papers?’ It is not as if he said ‘vere are your papers?’ in the voice of Herr Flick.

It is not as if, ironically, Germany has been successfully using ID cards for a while now with very little controversy and certainly no mention of the Gestapo. It is not as if David Cameron is an ignorant smug little-Englander. That would be silly. In fact a man like that would be in no position to hold constructive talks with the German Chancellor. He might rather, and stop me if I am getting ahead of myself here, be expected to resign.

Jeremy Wikeley is a first-year Historian at Pembroke.

Image: Clive Totman