The first anniversary of Boris Johnson’s prime ministership didn’t bring him good news. Firstly, having already clocked up Europe’s worst coronavirus death toll (46,526 at the time of writing), it emerged that the UK has had Europe’s highest ‘excess deaths’, the measure the British government says is the most reliable. Johnson can expect poor marks from voters on competence.


One of my favorite quotations is the alleged last words of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico who, just before he went before the firing squad, said to his Hungarian chef: “You thought it would never come to this.


Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s robust initiative in leading the call for an independent enquiry into the origins of the coronavirus – and suggesting that putting the World Health Organisation in charge of that would be a case of poacher and game-keeper – will have caused much dismay in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


In late 1970, British prime minister Ted Heath learnt that his Australian counterpart John Gorton planned to change the name of the Department of External Affairs to the Department of Foreign Affairs. It became a big issue – Britain’s view was how could Her Majesty’s Australian Diplomatic Service, as our diplomats were then grandly styled, possibly handle relations with the UK from a ‘Foreign Affairs’ department when the UK plainly wasn’t a foreign country?