UK Politics

David Cameron's Australian accent fails to impress

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Media captionPrime Minister David Cameron: "I can't quite do the accent"

David Cameron's attempt to impersonate Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been described as "so bad it could cause a diplomatic row".

During his speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London, the PM tried to copy her distinctive tone - albeit admitting first, "I can't quite do the accent."

The Sydney Morning Herald called the impersonation "bizarre".

An article on the news.com.au website, called it "perhaps one of the worst Aussie accents in history".

Mr Cameron and Miss Gillard met last month when Australia hosted the Commonwealth heads of government meeting.

At that summit, Commonwealth countries voted in favour of abolishing the rules giving males priority in the order of succession to the British throne.

'Taking the mickey'

Recounting his experience of the trip to the audience at the banquet on Monday, Mr Cameron said: "After the meeting, I turned to the Australian prime minister and said, 'Thank you very much Julia for allowing us to have this meeting in Australia.'

"And she said - I can't quite do the accent but I'll try - 'Not a bit David, this is good news for Sheilas everywhere.'"

The impersonation seemed to go down well in the hall, with laughter and clapping, including from the PM's wife Samantha and his Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

Image caption David Cameron and Julia Gillard held a joint press conference at the summit

However, on the other side of the world the reception was more of the lead balloon variety.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper wrote: "Prime Minister Julia Gillard has taken the mickey out of her own accent, now British Prime Minister David Cameron has had a go."

Writing on news.com.au, Owen Vaughan said the impression was "worse than James Coburn's half-Cockney, half-American attempt in The Great Escape" and "worse than Meryl Streep's "Ah Ding-gow ay-t my baibee" in the film Evil Angels (released under the name A Cry in the Dark in Europe and the US).

"It's so bad it could cause a diplomatic row," he wrote.

"He was regaling his audience with an account of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth last month - and probably felt the need to liven things up, and maybe get his own back on Ms Gillard for not curtseying for the Queen.

"The audience applauded but it is likely Mr Cameron will face a very different reception the next time he meets a 'Sheila'.

"Let's hope Barack Obama avoids the same mistake when he arrives in Australia tomorrow."

However, some reader comments underneath the article were a bit kinder.

One correspondent wrote: "I fail to see what is wrong with his impersonation of Gillard's accent. On the contrary, his Aussie accent is better to listen to."

Miss Gillard, who was born in Wales, has made reference to her own strong accent on a number of occasions.

Asked by a British reporter during the recent Commonwealth summit whether being born in the UK made any difference to her opinion on whether Australia should become a republic, she replied: "I am an Australian... You don't get an accent like this from being anything else."

Mr Cameron also joked about his white tie dress during the speech, likening himself to an extra in ITV's period drama Downton Abbey, which has recently finished.

He said: "Now that our Sunday nights are empty, this is a pleasure, although I felt in my own circumstances, I rather needed Mr Bates [the valet] to help me out."

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