It's good to talk to Her Majesty

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Yes, it's It's Your Line to the Queen!, the new programme in which you ring up Her Majesty the Queen pretending to be a world leader and get some straight talking on issues of the day. Today we have a call from an American statesman.

Queen: Hello?

Operator: Hello. Is that Queen Isabella II?

Queen: No. It's Queen Elizabeth II.

Operator: I'm sorry. My mistake. Here in South America we have only the name Isabella, not Elizabeth.

Queen: South America? You are calling from South America?

Operator: Yes. Well, it is not me that is calling. I am the operator. I am calling for President Menem of Argentina. He wishes to speak to you.

Queen: Fine.

Operator: He also wishes to know if you will pay for the call.

Queen: Oh, dear. One isn't made of money, you know. Oh, very well, then.

Operator: Go ahead, caller.

Menem: Good day, Your Majesty.

Queen: Good day, whoever you are, and it's your line to the Queen. What point do you wish to raise?

Menem: On behalf of all your loyal friends in South America, I would like to say how sorry I am about the furore in Britain about the phone call from the man in Canada who was pretending to be the Prime Minister of Canada ...

Queen: Let me get one or two things straight. There was, as far as I can make out, no furore. There was only a press furore, which is very different.

Menem: What is the difference?

Queen: When you get a real furore, people actually talk about the event. In shops and bars, people say: "What do you think about Michael Howard not resigning, the smarmy git?" That's a furore. They are genuinely upset about something.

Menem: Are people genuinely upset about Mr Howard not resigning?

Queen: Everyone except the Labour Party.

Menem: Could you explain that?

Queen: The Labour Party see Mr Howard as one of their trump cards. I get the impression that it is hard to take the Government seriously while he is still Home Secretary. I am only the constitutional monarch, so I have no opinion on these matters, but that is my impression. Therefore the Labour Party does not wish to topple Mr Howard. In last week's debate they were all desperately afraid that they might force his resignation, so Jack Straw was sent in to bat with strict instructions not to threaten Mr Howard's post. I think everyone agreed that he did the job magnificently, as in headlines like: "Michael Howard sees off Jack Straw".

Menem: You certainly keep your eyes open.

Queen: I've been head of this country for 40 years. You do begin to pick things up after a while.

Menem: Quite so ... So there was no real furore?

Queen: No, not at all. There was so little furore that, as far as I know, the news did not even broadcast sections of my hoax interview with the man from Canada. Except on Sky TV, I believe. But I would not know about that. I cannot get Sky TV. I would like to, but I cannot get planning permission for a dish on Buckingham Palace.

Menem: So this was a press furore only?

Queen: Yes.

Menem: And what is a press furore?

Queen: A press furore is when the press say that there is a furore, but there isn't. They are trying to drum up a furore by talking it into existence. This is what happened over the hoax call from Canada. They had the right idea in Canada. They ignored it. In England they said it was a furore, but it wasn't. The most that happened was that people in pubs said: "See that thing about the Queen and old whatsit? Bit of a laugh, eh?" With which I agree. Then they talked about something else. Which I did, too.

Menem: Old whatsit?

Queen: Chretien. Premier of Canada. A man of whom, until that moment, the British public was unaware. They were also unaware that Quebec's independence was about to be voted on. I despair sometimes of the political apathy of the British public. If the only way they can learn things is through hoax conversations between their monarch and a Canadian chat-show host, then we are in deep trouble.

Menem: Of course, it may be that the British do not think that Canadian fragmentation is of importance. Maybe sovereignty is of more importance to you than to them.

Queen: You may be right. I do hope not, but you may well be right.

Menem: Which brings me to the subject of this call, which is the Malvinas Islands ...

Queen: I think we'll move on to another caller now ...

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