Musings —07.04.2010 06:43 AM—
I’m not quite sure why, but I have been extended the honour of having lunch with Queen Elizabeth in Toronto on Monday. They must have me confused with some other, are more reputable, Kinsella.
In any event, Her Majesty’s arrival in Canada got me – a previously ardent Irish Catholic republican type – reflecting fondly about her reign. Here, from the archives, is the very last column I wrote for the National Post – about the Queen.
A salute to the oldest British monarch
by Warren Kinsella
National Post, December 21, 2007
Yesterday, Queen Elizabeth II became the oldest living British monarch. Being somewhat more than 81 years of age, as she now is, the Queen is older than was her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, at the time of her death in 1901. Buckingham Palace did not make a big deal about all of this, but it is noteworthy, nonetheless.
Personally, I can assure you that it is also somewhat noteworthy that this writer is even writing about it. I am a republican, you see — in the traditional sense, meaning, I believe that supreme power should lie with the citizens who are entitled to vote for their representatives. (Not in the Rudy Giuliani sense — although if I were a Republican, it would be the Giuliani kind, because he believes in equal marriage, reproductive rights for women and is an impressive enough guy to have been named one of Queen Elizabeth’s honorary knights.) Like any good republican, I also believe the Canadian Senate is an anti-democratic abomination, and I strenuously oppose the notion of anyone exercising great authority without having first been elected to do so.
That all said, this republican has grown to grudgingly admire the Queen. Not, I hasten to add, for any of the reasons the Monarchist’s League regularly trots out — you know, that the monarchy provides stability, continuity, identity. Or that it promotes volunteerism and honours and whatnot. All of those things are nice, but elected representatives or even Rotarians do likewise, I think.
No, I admire the Queen — I salute her, in fact –because I am a political hack.
Let me explain. A few years back, former British prime minister Tony Blair told a journalist that one of the best parts of his job was sitting down with Her Majesty, in private, to seek advice. A smile playing on his lips, Mr. Blair confessed that the Queen is a great tactician and — having known many of them, in the form of past prime ministers — an extraordinary political strategist. Queen Elizabeth, he seemed to suggest, is perhaps our greatest living politician.
As my former boss, Jean Chretien, has observed, more than once, the best indicator of political success is longevity. If you have survived for a long time–and, in the Queen’s case, she has survived for half a century — then you are a very successful leader. You are a winner.
Mr. Chretien, too, has often expressed admiration for Her Majesty’s political smarts. Here in the colonies, our entire political class was marked up — fatally in come cases — by successive crises, such as separatist referenda and constitutional upheaval. Her Majesty, meanwhile, has emerged from all of it with nary a scratch. Even in the province considered to be most anti-monarchist, Quebec, her visits are attended by throngs of admirers. Even Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe admitted in 2002 that he respects her.
The Queen is a political survivor. She has survived wars, tragedies, terrorism, economic calamity and — notably — heirs and relatives who frequently misbehave in public. Through it all, her political stock has risen. Through it all, she has been admired — not for the institution she represents, necessarily, but because of the person she is.
So, this political consultant says, with affection: If you ever get tired of this monarchy business, Your Majesty, and you want to run somewhere, just say the word. We could put together a campaign team in no time, raise plenty of dough — and you’d wipe the floor with the opposition.
In the meantime, congratulations.