Ridiculously premature talk of Prime Ministerial succession, commentary by John Howard on the need to secure national borders and a debate on cultural bias inside the national broadcaster – Australia, any time in the past seven years? Nope, welcome to David Cameron’s English summer of 2015, central London in fact, did I really leave Sydney at all?
Unexpectedly, several off shore work matters require discussions with various parts of Her Majesty’s Government and I have been dispatched. On the drive in from Heathrow, the radio has newly minted MP and still Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, doing his deliberate
worst to not criticise the Home Secretary and perhaps future Leadership rival, Theresa May. The Home Secretary has decreed Boris’ newly purchased water cannons (yes, water cannons!) are not appropriate law enforcement tools and cannot be used. Boris sounds quite unctuous as he rejects the BBC’s suggestion he should seek a refund on the hardware, he declares they will be kept. I suppose he needs to blast his way into No. 10 somehow.
With the Ashes in full swing John Howard is in town, however, he has found time in the tea break to deliver a speech to the Centre for Policy
Studies declaring David Cameron has no choice but to secure Britain’s borders. It seems the latest threat to Westphalian traditions isn’t coming from an interfering Brussels but rather poor desperates seeking unofficial entry into the UK; the solution is ‘as simple as that’ the former PM tells Britain’s incumbent. Some sound advice for the Tories to be filed with other recent political strategies from Australians abroad.
The English papers rarely disappoint, this time it is the Sun carrying the scoop and pictures of the Monarch and her late mother giving Nazi salutes
back in the early 1930s. Why care, I say! More worrying is another story of the same day reporting that a record number of Brits were failing to consummate their marriage on their wedding night. One aggrieved bride lamented that her groom was more adept at downing bottles of prosecco than her knickers! You can’t write this stuff! But of course, someone did.
Meetings with officials from HM Treasury take the bulk of my time during which I am regularly impressed by the supremely capable staff. This is a cultural strength of Britain, the Oxbridge labour supply chain feeding straight into the important functions of Whitehall before being spun out into the City.
What a pity these perspicacious Brits haven’t been more regularly projected through Hollywood’s prism, instead we get the emasculated fops Colin Firth and Hugh Grant have mostly played for the last twenty years.
My first dinner engagement is with Australia’s greatest friend in the House of Commons, the Tory MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell. Andrew is Chairman of the all Party ANZAC Group and well known for introducing a Private Members Bill which would enable the special expedition of Australian and New Zealand travellers through Heathrow customs – straight to the frontbench for this visionary! The MP was circumspect enough to wait until dessert before demonstrating his knowledge of Australian politics; ‘Tell me Dallas, is Malcolm Turnbull behaving himself?’ My, is that the time, gee I’m jet lagged, must dash!
The opportunity to have lunch with former Blair/Brown/Gillard advisor, John McTernan is an unexpected highlight. I had met JT once before, at one of those insufferable Mid – Winter Balls in Canberra where everybody pretends to enjoy themselves for the sake of the press gallery. I ask John if he has seen the ABC’s The Killing Season, he hasn’t, remarking the events are still too raw for him, even though he did hours of interviews for the production. The Scot was very generous with his views on matters political: UK Labour lost because Ed Milliband was never perceived as a likely PM, brother David isn’t the answer and Tony Abbott’s problems stem from him basically being a Grouper. OK, thanks John.
I wrap up the trip with a meeting at No.10 and I frankly struggle to stay on script throughout surrounded by the historical opulence, though the Cameron family’s cat on the front step as I enter through that heavy black door is a levelling aspect. My interlocutor is the very model of Government professionalism and the PM’s absence affords me the opportunity for quick glances into some of the interior parts of the building, we take our meeting adjacent to the PM’s private dining room and quickly work through and conclude proceedings. On the way out, I again see the cat and later learn that this feline is officially part of Her Majesty’s Government! Larry, the Cameron’s family pet, is burdened with the title of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, a title which has existed since the time of Henry VII, and has its own reference on No.10’s official website.
After five long days and the odd Pimms, it is time to return to Sydney; good thing too as I am tired. The great poet, essayist and Tory, Samuel Johnson, once wrote that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. London hasn’t made me tired Mr Johnson, nothing so grand, just some intense rules, legislation and regulations. QF2, I am yours, take me home please.
Dallas McInerney is a policy and regulation expert in the banking industry.