Cameron fails citizenship test on David Letterman show

Prime Minister left red-faced after he fails to give the English for Magna Carta.

While it wasn't the toughest interrogation he'll ever face, David Cameron still endured several awkward moments during his appearance on the David Letterman show last night. Challenged by Letterman to name who composed Rule Britannia as part of a mock British citizenship test, Cameron incorrectly answered "Elgar" (the correct answer, as revealed at the end of the show, was the little-known Thomas Arne). Less forgivable, perhaps, was the Prime Minister's failure to know the English for Magna Carta (Grand Charter), an omission that won't have impressed the Latinophile Boris Johnson. "You have found me out. That is bad, I have ended my career on your show tonight," Cameron joked at one point.

He went on to redeem himself, in the eyes of US viewers at least, by successfully explaining the difference between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and by displaying some awareness of the complex history of Anglo American relations. "We interfered in your politics 200 years ago when we sailed up the river and burnt the White House," Cameron said, in reference to the war of 1812.

The full video isn't available yet, but you can watch a short clip of the interview above.

David Cameron joked "I have ended my career" after stumbling over a series of questions on British history.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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