February 9

London Mayor offers antidote to republican TV knight

Unlike Sir Michael Parkinson, London Mayor Boris Johnson did not – as Andrew Bolt put it, make a goose of himself – by instructing Australians on what we must do about our constitutional system.

The Mayor had contributed an opinion piece,  “Even the Aussies want to bend the knee to the Queen,” to London Daily Telegraph on 30 January 2011.

This was republished in The Age (1/2)as “Even Aussies love the Queen, it's in the blood.”

Mr. Johnson recounts an amusing story about his stay in Australia and then explains why people are attached to the monarchy. But he doesn't tell us what to do, as Sir Michael unwisely did as a guest of this country offered the great honour of speaking at a function called by the official Australia Day Council. 

…William V, King of Australia …

At the end he  says:

 Prince William will not take any executive decisions about emptying dustbins, let alone war and peace, and that is frankly a thoroughly good thing.

But people all over the country will recognise that his wedding is an event in the life of the nation; and in spite of all their cynicism, (republican) Jonny Freedland's legions of Guardian ( the republican newspaper) readers will be unable to stop themselves buying royal wedding mugs and dishcloths and watching the whole thing on TV with an inexplicable sense of pleasure.

As for whether William will be King of Australia – I certainly wouldn't bet against it.

…Australian republican fails to honour bet… 

He recalls a stint he did as a visiting professor ast Monash University twenty years ago . He tells how he was having a drink with some Australian academics. Now in 1990 most academics, at least those in the humanities,   would have been republicans.

On that particular evening, I was teasing some of my colleagues about their ever-so-slightly correct way of thinking.

There was a scholar of gender studies and a theorist of animal rights, and there was some tut-tutting when I suggested that Aboriginal art could not really be compared in quality with, say, the masterpieces of the Florentine Renaissance. But what really got them going was when we moved on to the constitution.

Tell you what, I said: I bet you the Queen is still the Australian head of state in – and I paused, trying to think of a date so far in the future as to make the bet seem fair – the year 2000!

A throaty cackle went up from the group. "No way, mate," they said, republicans to a person. I shook hands on the wager with one of them – an expert on Saussure, I think – and we even wrote it down. The wretched thing is that I lost the bit of paper, and by the time 2000 rolled round, with the Queen still firmly on her throne as the constitutional monarch of Australia, I had forgotten all about it.

…The King's Speech…


In fact, I might never have remembered at all, had I not been sitting yesterday in a crowded Putney Odeon, watching the afternoon showing of The King's Speech.

[ Boris Johnson continues below]

At one stage Logue, the voice coach, reminds the future king that he is about to reign over Australia, and I thought, strewth – it's still true. We are now some way into 2011, and Her Maj occupies the same position in Oz (and Canada and New Zealand) as her father.

That's incredible, I thought – and where's my $100? There are all sorts of reasons why the film is so gripping, and why it deserves to win every Oscar going. Director Tom Hooper has done a quite brilliant job.

Colin Firth is wonderfully plausible in conveying the tortured duty of George VI. Geoffrey Rush gives a Shakespearean quality to the voice coach – a Fool-in-Lear who is both impertinent and achingly loyal.

As the king's coquettish wife, Helena Bonham-Carter reminds us of the key political role once played by the woman most of us remember as the beaming old Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

The whole thing is a triumph, and you will find tears pricking your eyes if not pouring down your cheeks when we get to the climax, and the King manages more or less without a hitch or a stammer to read his first wartime broadcast to the nation.

We see him walking out of the Palace studio to the acclaim of his staff; we see them clapping at the BBC; we see huge crowds cheering in the Mall, and for a second you are invited to ask yourself, why?

Why do we feel so proud and so moved? For heaven's sake, the fellow has only succeeded in semi-competently reading a few pages of typescript into a microphone. He didn't even write it. Why is it so important to us that he should overcome his b-b-b-blinking stammer and discharge this routine task?

The answer, of course, is that he is the King, and at the outbreak of a terrifying war he incarnates the nation, its hopes and fears, in a way that no one else can.


..elite Guardian inspired revolution fails   …

My old chum Jonny Freedland of The Guardian wrote a lovely piece the other day, in which he brooded on the success of The King's Speech, and the fascination with royalty that still exists – as he was forced to concede – in the hearts of the people. Many years ago, Freedland wrote a first-rate polemic called Bring Home The Revolution, in which he called for Britain to adopt the republicanism of her American progeny.

It hasn't happened. It won't happen. There isn't a cat's chance in hell of it happening.

In a way that is both irrational and astonishing, human beings still seem to respond to, and respect, the concept of hereditary transfer of authority. I don't just mean in African tribal systems.

Look at the supposedly socialist and egalitarian systems of Korea (father to son) or Cuba (brother to brother). Look at Syria (father to son). Look at Egypt, where the crowds have just woken – under the influence of Tunisia – to interrupt what would have otherwise been the narcotic transition from Mubarak the elder to Mubarak the younger.

Look at America – revolutionary, republican America – where for the last 20 years politics has been dominated by two families, the Bushes and the Clintons, and where there is now talk of Jeb Bush succeeding his father and brother.

In many of these cases, the family transitions are, of course, outrageous to democracy, but they reflect a weird superstition, a prehistoric yearning that still exists in our species.

That is why the dualism of the British system is so cunning and so effective.

The kings and queens of Britain are no longer called upon to do, but to be


You may also like

Celebrate the King’s Birthday

Celebrate the King’s Birthday

Record Online Audience 

Record Online Audience 
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter!