September 14

The Ashes and the republic

Must republicanism be brought into everything, even sport? What next – haute cuisine, or haute couture? Perhaps gardening?

I suppose this explains why republicanism attracted celebrities, like a lamp does to moths.

It is easy, it is glib, and it is still fashionable among the inner city elites to gush: "But of course darling, I am a republican"

A word of warning.

Never stand between a gaggle of republicans and visiting royalty.

You’ll be trampled in the rush!

In any event, Mark Nicholas, in a piece in the London Daily Telegraph on 5 September, 2005 , provocatively headed “BEATING THE AUSTRALIANS IS MORE FUN THAN BEATING ANYONE ELSE" manages to bring republicanism into a cricket commentary.

He argues that one of the main reasons for the extraordinary level of interest in Britain for the cricket Test this year has been the sudden awareness of national identity.

He says that nations with a history tend not to need sport in the way that those without one use sport to define national consciousness. Brazil has its football for example and Australia its cricket. England has Shakespeare, and an empire but not much decent cricket of late.

Mr Nicholas reflects the current fashion when he says that the British Empire is not something of which all of us have been proud. He writes that often it has embarrassed and set others against us. For him, it is easier to be proud of Britain than of the empire and many elements of its legacy.

He makes the surprising observation – in a piece about sport, mind you – that only an old and rather surprising sense of respect for Britain has delayed Australia becoming a republic!

Only an old sense of respect, Mr Nicholas?

I don’t remember that argument in the referendum campaign. The winning No case was about matters purely and completely constitutional!

As to the old imperial links, the historical fact is that Britain was the only colonial power that granted its colonies self government. Even the American colonies enjoyed, before independence, a degree of autonomy unthinkable at the time in other empires.

Of course the old empire was not perfect. But compare it to the others. And compare the heritage it has left behind.

Until next time,

David Flint


Cricket, London Daily Telegraph, The Ashes

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