Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed United Kingdom native and Davidson County Republican Party Vice Chair Bart Smith to the newsmaker line to discuss the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the new king, Charles III.
Leahy: We are joined right now on our newsmaker line by our very good friend Bart Smith, a native of the United Kingdom, who managed a successful parliamentary campaign when he lived in the United Kingdom. He saw the light and came to America. I think you’re a naturalized American citizen now, Bart, aren’t you?
Smith: That’s right. Good morning, Michael.
Leahy: Good morning, Bart.
Smith: I have been since 2017.
Leahy: Well, we are delighted. You are a naturalized American citizen. You’ve been a great leader in the Republican Party here in Davidson County, Middle Tennessee. But let’s talk today about the passing of the great Queen Elizabeth II. Your thoughts.
Smith: I was lost for words. I think that the United Kingdom, Great Britain, had been prepared very craftily, really. The government had been waiting for decades for this, really, and had everything prepared. The news readers and presenters in the UK on the day it was going to be announced that the Queen was sick, were wearing black suits already.
So everything was laid out. And so it didn’t come as a shock. But my initial thoughts were just, this is a moment in history. Where were you when a man landed on the moon? Or where someone, you know, famous had passed away? This is just a moment in time that you’ll always remember.
Leahy: You grew up in the United Kingdom?
Leahy: Where exactly in England did you grow up?
Smith: In Portsmouth, which is the home of the Royal Navy, what’s left of it.
Leahy: And for 20 odd years you were a citizen of the United Kingdom. What was your view of Queen Elizabeth II when you were a subject of the Queen?
Smith: I’m a huge supporter of the monarchy, and so are many members of my family. I think she had an 80 percent approval rating if you can imagine any head of state today that has an 80 percent approval rating.
Leahy: She did.
Smith: And it’s interesting because the monarchy rules through the idea of tradition and being somewhat mysterious because it’s an inherited kind of right. So, growing up, I never remember really hearing the Queen’s voice or any member of the royal family.
You just sort of see them and you see them on television and know them. In fact, when I was a boy, Margaret Thatcher was the head of the legislative branch as Prime Minister, and so the Queen was also the head of the executive branch as the head of state.
So you had these two older women in blue dresses going around with handbags. When I was about six and Margaret Thatcher was deposed as Prime Minister, I was terrified because I thought the Queen had been taken out in a coup. (Chuckles)
They’ve always been there, and people are very fond of the monarchy. It doesn’t always make sense to people abroad, but they’re just something that’s always been there and people hope always will be there.
Leahy: So give us your assessment of the following. She died yesterday after a spectacular 70-year reign. She’s now been succeeded by her son, 73-year-old Charles, now King Charles III. Many commentators are saying expectations for his reign are low. Your thoughts on what kind of a king King Charles III will be?
Smith: I think he will be a decisive king, and the reason I think that will be he’s not going to play things carefully. He never has. He’s been waiting for this role all of his life. And the fact that he decided to call himself Charles III is very telling.
Charles I lost the English Civil War and lost his head as a result of execution. Charles II, his son, had to go into exile and then came back and promptly lost his throne as well. So Charles III, that’s a bold name to choose, because the first two Charles’s didn’t exactly have glorious reigns.
So he doesn’t care. He is his own man, and throughout his life, he’s always wanted to change things and improve things and sort of mess with precedent, which isn’t always great if you’re a monarch.
Leahy: Crom has a question for you.
Carmichael: Yes. If you assume for purpose of this discussion that Queen Elizabeth was the ultimate monarch if you want to assume that…
Smith: It’s a fair assumption.
Carmichael: And Charles wants to change that and make it better, that’s a heavy lift. And it seems to me like if he decides that he does not want to emulate her, the path for Charles III might not be as off the cliff as Charles I and II, but it won’t have a happy ending because the monarchy in Great Britain was strong, because Queen Elizabeth was so wonderful.
Smith: That’s right.
Carmichael: If it gets to where 60 percent of the people don’t like Charles III because Charles III involves himself too much in political affairs and ends up alienating the people, the monarch exists because the people allow it. Yes?
Smith: Ultimately, yes. And I think you raise a really important point there. And actually, people forget the 90s were really bad to the monarch. The queen in 1992 had Windsor Castle burned down. She described as her annus horribilus.
And then all three of her sons divorced. And so you had all these royal scandals, and opinion ratings for the monarchy were very low. In fact, the public on the whole said that the Queen should pay for her own renovation of the castle.
And you’ll also remember when Diana died, but Buckingham Palace didn’t put the flag at half mast, and Tony Blair as Prime Minister intervened. So we do forget that the royal family has been through a lot, and since then things have improved, so he can’t really take support for granted.
I think you’re right. He really needs to play things very carefully. Britain is at a very hard point right now with lots of hardships. I think the price of energy is now being capped at about $3,000 per household a year just because the price of energy has quadrupled.
Carmichael: On game shows, they actually now spin the wheel to get your energy bill paid. Believe it or not, that’s not one of the categories. We’ll pay your energy bill.
Smith: Right. I just came back. And it’s like wartime over there.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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