Features Australia

A conservative abroad

16 July 2016

9:00 AM

16 July 2016

9:00 AM

Nude at 40,000 feet

It was just before Christmas at The Square in Mayfair – the Australia-loving chef Phil Howard’s two star Michelin restaurant – whilst gulping an excellent Australian Shaw and Smith chardonnay no less – with the Tory MP and Chairman of the Australia Parliamentary Group, Andrew Rosindell, that the idea was hatched. Poor old mother Great Britain stuck in a failed relationship with some loafing shiny bum in Brussels. Australia, the golden child, returns to help break old mum out and get independent again, back on her own two feet. 23 June.Brexit. You’ve gotta be in it.

Cleaning out my frequent flyer points I choose to travel to London First Class one way, Economy the other. A true #Brexit man for all seasons. Emirates First Class is quite agreeable. Aloof but elegant Bulgarian flight attendants silently glide to my shoulder to feed me everything in sight, then to my mild surprise offer me a shower. Unlike some I have never before been nude at 40,000 feet but, after a few generous glasses of Hennessy Paradis it seems like the most natural thing I have ever done. Showered, overfed and watered, I arrive at Heathrow ready for battle.

We’re headquartered at the beautiful East India Club at St James’s Square. Farage is a member here. Former NSW Viceroy Sir Roden Cutler VC was another. Surrounded by stuffed hippos and other trophies from the Empire, standards are faithfully maintained at all times – the accidental wearing of a Leave badge on my suit jacket at one time draws a quiet, but suitably firm rebuke.

The members are welcoming–at my last stay the Club President, the venerable Micky Steele-Bodger CBE hears my Australian accent at the bar and presents me a gin and tonic and an enquiry about the state of our Commonwealth. As I discover over multiple Bombay Sapphires, Micky is not only a veterinarian and the President of the Barbarians, but the former England Rugby boss and inaugural Chairman of the International Rugby Board. The IRB headquartered at the Club until it moved to Dublin. This time I’m here and England defeat Australia and win a series against the Wallabies in Oz for the first time ever. If I see Micky I’ll be the one buying drinks. Do you serve Reschs?


The BBC holds at Wembley what they unimaginatively describe as The Great Debate. It’s imparted by the national broadcaster with the importance of D-Day. It’s here the strangest event of Brexit occurs – the emergence of the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia. The CEC – Australia’s LaRouchites with their long-celebrated argument that Prince Philip and the royals are up to all manner of naughtiness – have turned up en masse and are helpfully handing out weighty tomes urging a Leave vote. It’s intense. Inside while waiting for kick-off the BBC broadcasts its interminable grey soapie EastEnders. Both Remain and Leave combine to jeer the show until the Beeb pulls the plug in the only bipartisan moment of the campaign.

The debate, hosted by the venerable David Dimbleby whose role in British election coverage is as hallowed by time as The Book of Common Prayer, is a cracker. There is one word that is repeated by all sides throughout the Debate – Australia. Australia’s immigration system, Australia’s borders, Australia’s ability to trade with the world… No wonder the CEC have travelled ten thousand miles to be here. I start to burst with nationalistic pride and wonder whether the 5,000 attendees after this will want to take Barry McKenzie’s advice and head to Australia House with emigration and a desire to ‘Walk Tall in Australia’ in their hearts.

Next evening Conservatives Abroad are hosting drinks on the House of Lords terrace with the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. He seems the sort of bloke that would own a top hat. The catering consists of warm prosecco flatter than the Foreign Secretary’s speech in favour of Remain. Enough. We retire to the nearby Westminster Arms. Our Leave badges attract free pints from some happy Ukip officials and derision from some Irish drinkers who accuse us of selling out for the Queen’s shilling. The abuse though washes over. It’s 10pm at night and we’re drinking out on the street. Out of glass no less. The freedom is so overwhelming for someone from the puritanical State of NSW that all I can do is shout our Irish detractors a pint.

Referendum Day arrives. Bravado is high but confidence is not. Expected at what I assume is a campaign office, we instead arrive at an agreeable home just before polling commences at 7am. ‘You’re the Australians!’ a middle-aged woman squeals as the front door opens. We are marched into the kitchen and served a full English breakfast. Family members come down for breakfast with quizzical looks at the dishevelled Australians that have invaded their home. ‘Lucinda, please vote Leave today, even just for your father’ our host despairingly requests of her moodily disappearing daughter. I enquire about our duties and am instead silenced with an insistence of more tea and a demand why Australian Rugby sacked Eddie Jones a decade ago. Is this the great British reserve I have heard about?

Eventually we receive our orders – door-knocking Council high-rise housing estates. I used to be scared of these places growing up watching The Bill on Saturday nights. We’ve been armed with Labour Leave paraphernalia the size of cinder blocks and about as easy to digest. The residents are unfailingly polite. Rather than immigration or the economy, they want to know why an Australian is spending his annual holidays doing this. ‘Have you considered visiting Madame Tussaud’s and the Tower of London?’ one resident helpfully suggests.

24 hours later I’m at Heathrow and the Concorde Room waiting for the flight to loyal Singapore. Victory. The Brexit result seems to have leftists rhubarbing their grave concern about ‘Global Markets’ and ‘The Economy’ for the very first time. Another great outcome of this referendum.

Thanks Dave!

The post A conservative abroad appeared first on The Spectator.

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