UK Politics

Samantha Cameron 'liked calm down, dear joke'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDavid Cameron raised some heckles when he told Angela Eagle: 'Calm down dear'

David Cameron has revealed that wife Samantha has told him to "Calm down, dear" several times at home.

The prime minister was accused of being sexist last week after he used the phrase in the Commons in an effort to quieten Labour MP Angela Eagle.

But he told the BBC that Mrs Cameron had found his words - borrowed from adverts featuring film director Michael Winner - "quite entertaining".

Mr Cameron added that he had intended to make a "humorous remark".

During prime minister's questions last week, Mr Cameron became involved in some lively exchanges with Labour MPs exchanges over NHS reforms.

To laughter from many MPs, but looks of derision and hollers of complaint from others, including shadow chancellor Ed Balls, he told Ms Eagle: "Calm down, dear. Calm down. Calm down."

Fairy Dairy Land

Ms Eagle, the shadow secretary to the Treasury, later remarked that "a modern man" would not have "expressed himself that way". She added: "I have been patronised by better people than the prime minister."

However, in an interview with BBC Local Radio, Mr Cameron insisted he had intended to make a "joke" and that his wife had found his choice of words "quite entertaining, as it's something she tends to say to me".

The prime minister confessed: "She has on a number of occasions said 'Calm down, dear' to me, so she laughed a lot when she heard what had happened in the Commons."

The catchphrase "Calm down, dear" became common parlance after Mr Winner used it in a series of TV commercials for the insurance firm Esure.

Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday that he had meant it as a "joke", although he admitted it was not likely to win him a comedy award.

Mr Cameron utilised a rather more obscure reference during this week's prime minister's questions when he accused Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins of living in "Fairy Dairy Land".

It transpired that this is the mythical spiritual destination for Ernie, the character featured in the popular song Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West, by the late comedian Benny Hill.

It is not Mr Cameron's first brush with this particular element of popular culture. In 2006, he nominated Ernie as one of his favourite tunes for BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

More on this story