Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Conservative republicans

And the result of the Australian Liberal leadership election is in. Sydney Morning Herald: Malcolm Turnbull ousts Brendan Nelson as Liberal Party leader. Now whether or not this will prove to be the Australian Liberals' Iain Duncan Smith to Michael Howard moment remains to be seen.

Although Malcolm Turnbull was a Cabinet minister in the last Coalition government, he is best known in the UK as the lawyer in the Spycatcher trial and as the former chair of the Australian Republican Movement at the time of the Australian republic referendum, 1999. The latter point has led to some commenters on Conservativeinternational: Malcolm Turnbull is new leader of Australia's Liberals to question whether the Liberals can still be considered a sister party at all. This frankly says far more about blinkered opinions of what is and isn't "conservatism" than it does about the Australian Liberals.

At the end of the day modern conservatism around the world is not defined by attachment to some particular organ of government. Whilst most conservative parties differ on details due to differing national circumstances, most of them come down to common positions in terms of economics & taxation, the rule of law and a strong position on the world stage. There's no monarchy in that lot. Conservative politicians have committed acts of republicanism in the past, most notably when Stanley Baldwin forced Edward VIII's abdication (any choice or rejection of a head of state is republicanism) and I have no doubt that if this country does ever have a referendum on the subject we will see some Conservative party members at the forefront of a republic campaign. Malcolm Turnbull is no heretic in the international conservative family.

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