There’s no doubting Tony Abbott did many questionable things during his tenure as Prime Minister, however one that even his supporters had to admit was decidedly odd was bestowing a knighthood upon Prince Philip.
Writing in The Australian today, foreign editor Greg Sheridan says that Abbott’s “worst mistake” as PM was due to a combination of his personal loyalty and his deep, biding affection for the Queen.
“Awarding Philip an Australian knighthood was the worst mistake of Abbott’s tenure in office,” says Mr Sheridan.
“It made Abbott look absurdly antique and out of touch, reinforcing every negative stereotype about him. And, except for a few diehard enthusiastic monarchists, it cruelled the morale of the Liberal Party.”
Mr Sheridan goes on to say that the true story behind why Tony Abbott chose to knight Prince Philip has “not been revealed before and this information does not come from Abbott”.
He says the reason Abbott gave Philip his knighthood was simple: “because he learned the Queen wanted her husband to have one” and he was in a position to grant Her Majesty’s wish.
The backlash from the gesture was immense, and far outweighed the benefit to the Prime Minister. People wondered if he’d gone mad, the party was embarrassed. Sure, the majority of Australians may (or may not be) monarchists, but this was too far.
“That Abbott unilaterally restored knighthoods at all is an example of how poor his tactical judgment on political management sometimes was as prime minister,” writes Mr Sheridan.
“But for Queen to make a request of Abbott meant that all that was honourable and generous in Abbott — loyalty, chivalry, romance — was lined up against the pragmatic political judgment that should have guided him.”
But perhaps the biggest mistake, which the writer appears impressed by, is that the former Prime Minister never revealed his reason for bestowing the honour on the prince.
“Not only did Abbott endure enormous personal damage because of his loyalty to the Queen, he never leaked the exculpatory explanation, which does not excuse his error in judgment but gives it context, humanises it and may have made it a less toxic political issue.”
Tell us, what do you make of reasoning? Do you think Tony Abbott would have been treated less harshly had he revealed why knighted Prince Philip?