A message from the Chair

This section was first started by Richard Bourne to give a monthly update for readers and supporters of The Round Table journal on developments leading up to the centenary celebrations of our journal (started in the Edwardian era).

Due to its popularity, it is now being continued by the new Chair of the editorial advisory board, (known since the early twentieth century as the Moot), Stuart Mole.

View the messages by selecting any of the links below:

Archive of Chair's messages

Below can be found an archive of all the messages written by the Chair of the Moot, which is the editorial advisory board for The Round Table

  • January 2015
    With the dawn of the New Year came dramatic change in Sri Lanka - and much relief for the Commonwealth. In the island’s presidential elections on 8 January, despite violence and widespread intimidation, the challenger, Maithripala Sirisena, won an unexpected and convincing victory. Surprisingly also, the incumbent, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had called a snap election two years early in the expectation of extending his autocratic ten-year rule, seemed to have accepted his defeat (though reports later emerged suggesting a failed attempt by him to enlist the army and security chiefs in a coup).
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    • Oct/Nov 2014
      The "Peoples' Commonwealth' is often described in glowing terms. Existing in parallel with the official, intergovernmental Commonwealth, it is taken to include civil society across the association, as well as 80 or 90 recognised non-governmental Commonwealth organisations.
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    • Aug/Sept 2014
      To many, the XXth Commonwealth Games, held in Glasgow from the end of July to the beginning of August 2014, were the "best ever". Sebastian Coe called them "outstanding", adding: "the sport has been top class, the organisation has been flawless and the atmosphere has been electric." Mike Hooper, the long-serving Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, described them as "the standout games in the history of the movement".
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    • June/July 2014
      The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka, in November 2013, was widely seen as a 'lost summit'. A bare majority of Heads of the 53-nation association attended the meeting, and some of those left early. The media focus on Sri Lanka's human rights record, particularly in the aftermath of a protracted civil conflict, was unrelenting, drowning out all else. The summit communiqué was excessively long on words but noticeably short of distinctive Commonwealth initiatives. Even with its collective experience of conflict resolution, Commonwealth leaders and the Secretary-General could offer Sri Lanka little obvious support in the process of reconciliation, accountability and reconstruction
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    • February 2014
      In my sixteen years working in the Private Offices of three Commonwealth Secretaries-General, I quickly learned that it was a glaring solecism for my boss to be described as “the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat”. His correct title, of course, was the more expansive “Commonwealth Secretary-General”. The former suggested a role merely confined to being chief executive of the Secretariat: the latter indicated a much broader, global mission, at the service of Commonwealth governments but also their principal spokesman and champion.
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    • January 2014
      Speaking a few days after New Year, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, was up-beat. Describing the Commonwealth as an organisation ahead of its time, he detected “tremendous enthusiasm” for the association, rather than decline. It was understandable that those who cared about the organisation might worry about its health, but he did not see “any waning of the Commonwealth's global importance”.
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    • September/October 2013
      More than most international meetings, the Commonwealth biennial summit (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, or 'CHOGM'), with its fluid agenda and disparate membership, seems to be influenced by the random cascade of events that precede it.
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    • July/August 2013
      "You will be the granting of a Commonwealth seal of approval to an emerging dictatorship in Asia". So wrote the former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka and opposition MP, Mangala Samaraweera, to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma. His July letter was, of course, about his country's hosting of November's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo.
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    • May/June 2013
      As squalid deals go, Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s clandestine agreement with the US government at the height of the Cold War over the use of Diego Garcia as a military base is one of the darker stains on the British imperial banner..
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    • March/April 2013
      The election, in March 1980, of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, and his ZANU party to govern newly-independent Zimbabwe was for many a happy outcome after many years of heartache and struggle.
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    • February 2013
      There had been talk of a grand presentation to the Queen, amid a fanfare of publicity. But instead, just before Christmas, a low-key joint announcement was made by Julia Gillard, the Australia PM and Commonwealth Chair, and Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General.
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    • December 2012
      "Crisis? What crisis?": these were the words attributed to British Labour Prime Minister, 'Sunny' Jim Callaghan, as he stepped off a plane from Guadeloupe in January 1979 into the UK's "Winter of Discontent". The weather across the country was exceptionally cold, with blizzards and deep snow. .
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    • October 2012
      "There was a time that to be a Foreign Minister was to be the Cinderella of Commonwealth high-level meetings. Without a separate ministerial meeting of their own, the only opportunity for foreign ministers to engage with the Commonwealth was at its international pinnacle - at the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM).
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    • September 2012
      "You have to be a good butcher" explained Harold Macmillan, talking of the Prime Minister's role in a government reshuffle. He famously sacked one-third of his Cabinet in the wake of Eric Lubbock's victory, as the Liberal Candidate, in the Orpington bye-election of 1962.
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    • July/August 2012 - Surprises
      As I heard the sound of the June issue of The Round Table dropping on to my door mat, I knew that latest issue of the world's oldest journal of international affairs contained some surprises.
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    • May/June 2012 - Memories from the Queen's Silver Jubilee
      It is 1977 - and the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Two years earlier Queen Elizabeth had hinted that she would favour the United Kingdom being the host of the 'Jubilee' Commonwealth summit of 1977, but it was left to Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to propose that, and offer London as the venue, at the Kingston Heads of Government Meeting of 1975.
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    • March/ April 2012 - Drama in the Maldives for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group
      It was a moment of high drama in the small Indian Ocean island nation. The young President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed - the first in his country's history to win a multi-party election - was signing away his hold on office. He was stepping down, he said, to avoid bloodshed.
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    • February 2012 - A Diamond jubilee as Head of the Commonwealth
      Sixty years ago this month, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne. As well as becoming Queen of her numerous Commonwealth realms, she also followed her father, King George VI, as the Commonwealth's second Head. Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister, led the Commonwealth in recognising the new monarch as 'Head of the Commonwealth';
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    • January 2012 - The Round Table post-CHOGM conference
      I start the New Year in Cambridge, at Sidney Sussex College where The Round Table is holding its post-CHOGM conference. This January we gather to dissect the Commonwealth of Nations, recently returned from its summit (or Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - CHOGM) in Western Australia.
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    • December 2011 - The inaugural Rex Nettleford Memorial Lecture
      As the year draws to its close, I am in Oxford. Following a once-familiar route down the Banbury and Parks Roads, I arrive on the steps of Rhodes House. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, the building is also a grand memorial to its benefactor, the diamond magnate and imperial visionary, Cecil Rhodes.
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    • November 2011 - The Perth CHOGM
      Qantas put the final seal on the CHOGM. The management's decision to ground all flights the day before the end of the summit looked like an attempt to leverage maximum influence both from CHOGM and - more importantly for Australians - from the Melbourne Gold Cup, due to take place a few days later.
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    • October 2011 - Perth Notebook
      I squeezed my suitcase closed, reflecting ruefully that it was the presence of too many documents and papers that was once more pushing me into an excess baggage charge. It is ten years since I last journeyed to Australia for a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
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    • September 2011 - 50th Anniversary of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld
      Fifty years ago this month, the world was shocked to learn of the sudden death of the second United Nations Secretary-General, the death of Dag Hammarskjöld. At that time, Hammarskjöld was at the eye of a storm.
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    • July/August 2011 - Will South Sudan be the Commonwealth's 55th member?
      Since the fledgling state achieved independence on 9 July 2011, it has joined the United Nations and the African Union. And it has made no secret of its desire for Commonwealth membership too.
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    • June 2011 - It was 19 May 1986, and apartheid still had South Africa in its malevolent grip.
      It was early morning in Cape Town. The sun was up and the hotel was beginning to stir. There were riots in the townships, a partial state of emergency and a rising clamour for greater international pressure on the regime. All this had brought a Commonwealth team to the troubled land of its former member. It is twenty-five years since those stirring and groundbreaking events.
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    • May 2011 - Saturday 2 April- polling day in Nigeria's parliamentary elections - was not going well.
      High security was visible from daybreak. Groups of voters and party agents had begun to gather at Nigerias 200,000 or more polling stations well before the 8 a.m. opening time. But of the electoral officials supposed to be running the elections, there was no sign.
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    • April 2011 - Arriving early in the morning in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city...
      I am struck by the changes that have occurred since my last visit nearly three years ago. New highways have been built, or are under construction. Gleaming high-rise buildings have mushroomed in the city centre. The telecommunications industry is booming and, on top of a growth rate of nearly 8%, there is the unexpected windfall of high oil prices. At 90% of total exports, oil revenues remain Nigeria's blessing - and its bane.
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    • March 2011 - A blossoming of 'Arab Spring' in 2011.
      2011 has seen the blossoming of 'Arab Spring'. Many have watched with awe and astonishment as the all-enveloping blanket of arbitrary rule across the Arab world has been thrown back, at some of its seemingly most secure points, like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Read More...

    • January 2011 - How to define "the Commonwealth"?.
      Despite a cold and gloomy January, the Round Table's first meeting of the year was an occasion of warmth and optimism First, the Editorial Board (or Moot, as it is traditionally called) expressed their profound thanks to Richard Bourne as he came to the end of an invigorating and fruitful five years as Chair. The high point of his term was undoubtedly an event-packed centenary celebration in (and around) 2010. Read More...

    • December 2010 - What sort of Commonwealth will we have in ten years' time - let alone a hundred?
      It is clear that there are quite different expectations for the Eminent Persons Group, reporting on the Commonwealth's future to next year's summit in Perth, Australia. Read More...

    • November 2010 - How to define "the Commonwealth"?
      It is wrong to define "the Commonwealth" as the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth Foundation, as seasonal greetings cards used to do. The Commonwealth actually consists of over 2000 million people in 54 states, though many citizens are blissfully unaware of their membership. A proposal by Derek Ingram over a decade ago for a Commonwealth loyalty card, worth reviving, might change this amnesia. Read More...

    • October 2010 - Is the Commonwealth just a niche player?
      Is the Commonwealth just a niche player, filling gaps in international machinery, or can it be a pioneering consensus-builder, building global support for fresh policy and action, which uses its own expertise and concern? Read More...

    • September 2010 - Time for a Commonwealth Games review?
      An exceptional monsoon, a risky 'just-in-time' local management with inadequate Commonwealth supervision, a ferociously critical Indian and international media – and hey presto the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi were in crisis before they began. Read More...

    • August 2010 - Australia's Commonwealth
      Australia's inconclusive election meant that whoever became Prime Minister -- Julia Gillard for Labor, or Tony Abbott for the Liberal/ National coalition -- would preside over the first Commonwealth summit they had ever attended. This is not unprecedented. Read More...

    • July 2010 - Fair Elections?
      How free and fair will elections be in the Commonwealth's newest member, Rwanda? Its presidential election is planned for 9 August, and already the UN Secretary-General has demanded a full inquiry into allegations of politically motivated killings of opposition figures. Read More...

    • June 2010 - Empire and Me
      A big difference between two post-colonial associations-la Francophonie and the Commonwealth-is that the first began as a cultural and linguistic body, while the second has its roots in politics and economics. Read More...

    • May 2010 - Democracy and coalitions
      So the United Kingdom, one of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth, has acquired a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. After a first-past-the-post election in which no party had a majority, the politicians have quite quickly created the first coalition since Churchill's in wartime. Read More...

    • March 2010 - Reforming the commonwealth
      Over the next few months the outlines of a third attempt since 1989 to reform the Commonwealth will become clearer. In Port of Spain last November the leaders decided to appoint an Eminent Persons' Group to examine the processes and future of the association. Read More...

    • February 2010 - A Zimbabwean experience
      It was when a cab driver, taking me to the University of Zimbabwe just outside Harare, told me that he was an old man, that the full extent of his country's catastrophe hit me. He was only 55. Yet such has been the crash in life expectancy in just over a decade that he has become, actuarially, an old man. Read More...

    • January 2010 - The Commonwealth - A great global good?
      Is the Commonwealth, as Kamalesh Sharma has claimed, "A great global good"? This was the title of the Round Table's third centenary conference and, in a frank, no-nonsense discussion at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, the answer was "Maybe - but it could do better." Read More...

    • December 2009 - A post-CHOGM summary 2009
      The captains and kings have departed, and Port of Spain, site of the 21st Commonwealth summit attended by Derek Ingram, veteran commentator, has returned to its usual traffic jams, sense of humour and Caribbean vibe. Read More...

    • November 2009 - Commonwealth as a champion of small states
      How successful is the Commonwealth as a champion of small states - some 32 out of the total membership of 53? And does its activity for the smaller members damage or enhance the interest shown in it by its medium sized and stronger countries? Read More...

    • October 2009 - Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2009
      Last month I mentioned that the Commonwealth's biennial cycle was ripening up in anticipation of the leaders' summit in Trinidad and Tobago at the end of November (27-29 November to be exact). Read More...

    • September 2009 - Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2009
      The Commonwealth moves in a biennial cycle, and diplomats and lobbyists are now gearing up for the summit in Port of Spain from 27 to 29 November, 2009. Read More...

    • August 2009 - Winner of 1st Routledge/Round Table award
      This month I can now say something about the winner of the first Routledge/Round Table award, tenable at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. Read More...

    • July 2009 - Round Table centenary scholarships
      For this month we have begun with a bang. Eight hundred people inquired, 112 put in completed applications, and six students at universities in the UK were awarded the special Round Table centenary scholarships which are funding travel and fieldwork in other Commonwealth countries. Read More...