March 8

The Spectator on our Royal Family

“Politicians will naturally vie with one another to appear compassionate, a trait exacerbated in a real crisis and more likely to furnish decisions that look foolish in hindsight, “declared the editorial in the Australian edition of The Spectator  on 26 February about the terrible bushfires that had so ravaged Victoria.

 “An election is always approaching. Yet our system of government, a constitutional monarchy, should temper these side-effects by focusing the public’s attention on — and placing the government’s official response in the hands of — the nation’s royal family, who face no re-election worries,” the editorial continued.

Reading this, I was singing the praises of the young editor, Oscar Humphries, whom I had only recently met. That is, until I read the following two sentences.

“During this tragedy, Australians should be disappointed with the royal family’s lack of support. Prince Charles’s early presence in Victoria would have consoled and touched the victims, undergirded his future right to the title King of Australia, and may even have stymied the more foolish rhetoric and rash decisions of our politicians.”

The editor published my reply:

“Your comment on the way the Australian Crown offers leadership above politics was welcome. But you are surely in error to lament the Royal Family’s lack of support over the tragic loss of life and property in Victoria.

“The support was constant from Queen Elizabeth’s message through  to her personal donation, her request for daily briefings, the 87 year old Duke of Edinburgh’s opening of the condolence book, Prince Charles meaningful comments while raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the young Princes’ visit to Australia House to sign the condolence book , and to the Princess Royal dropping everything to come to Melbourne to represent the Queen of Australia, her serious and caring message and her genuine compassion. 

“There will no doubt be more. “You are right- they are not elected. Nor are they paid, nor do they receive a golden handshake – they just go on. But that is only one aspect of their role. The Australian Crown is our oldest constitutional institution and an important check and balance against the political arm.”

…The Spectator Australia….

As mentioned here  I have been subscribing The Spectator for years. I do so because it is an amusing London journal.  I said then I am of two minds about the new Australian supplement, principally because I fear that at some stage they will reduce the real Spectator to fit the Australian comment in.

They haven’t but I would like to see the real cover. I suppose I can always look at it on the web. It is one of my favourites, classified uncompromisingly under “Overseas Journals”.  But I rarely look at it on the web.

  Why should I? When you can turn over the pages of a freshly opened Spectator, you don’t look at something which is manifestly inferior, where you miss the nuance and subtlety of the design, the setting out , the font and yes, the smell and touch too.
Some things are pleasing about the Australian pages. There are some very good columns, including younger writers like Tom Switzer and Christian Kerr, and more established writers like the wise Peter Coleman and the witty Patrick Cook.

Another interesting development announced by Andrew Neil at the Sydney launch was an Indian version. I find so many Indians to be erudite, well informed, and sophisticated that with the number of potential readers Spectator India should be an enormous success.

What a pity there is no hope of a Spectator Zimbabwe. This site receives visitors from around the world. We’ve never had one from Zimbabwe. While Malcolm Fraser failed in his attempt to make Australia a republic in 1999, he was very successful in his efforts with Rhodesia- Zimbabwe.  



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