There’s no doubt about the Man of Steel – he’s nothing if not tenacious, and the betting is that the Australian head of state must shudder when she hears that the Howards are on their way to London.

A quick ring around to former prime ministerial staffers has revealed that their bosses didn’t automatically bore Her Majesty with their political presence every time they hit London. Not so Howard. Not content with travelling with what is obviously a jinx – September 11 saw him in Washington and he’s hardly off the plane this time when Bang! it’s on again – he’s off to the Palace see the Queen and no doubt report that her colony is in safe hands and nothing will change for many, many years.

Can’t you hear him? “Nanny (as he quaintly calls her), I scared them witless during the referendum and the tactic is still working – most Australians see a terrorist under every bed – this keeps me in office and our troops fighting for George Bush’s invasion of Iraq.”

John and Janette may be wearing out their welcome – most of their predecessors have been invited either to Balmoral for a weekend or a sail on board Britannia when it was in the royal service. Sir Robert Menzies was of course an exception; he was around long enough for the royals to remember who he was and a close friendship between them was formed. When Lord Casey (who was also a friend of the royals) was governor general he recounted a time he was having lunch with the queen mother and told her he had completed a section of his political memoirs.

Over a glass or ten of gin, HM asked him what the book’s title would be. “Seven Years Hard” he said, which brought a twinkle to the old queen’s eyes. Oh Dick, he reported her saying, a title like that might attract a readership foreign to your other books – I’d think of something else. Her current Majesty won’t get too many laughs out of Howard – not many people do.

Peter Fray

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