Harold Bishop

On 9 March 1954, Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Brisbane for the first time as part of her inaugural two-month tour of Australia. Having already visited the major metropolitan cities of Sydney and Melbourne, she was mildly startled by the enthusiastic reception she encountered in Brisbane. One could certainly feel something extra in the cries of the adoring public as the motorcade passed along George Street that day.

Perhaps one of the most excited members of the thronging crowd that day was young Harold Bishop.

Bishop grew up at a time when Australia decidedly looked to Britain. His parents had come to Australia just after the Great Depression. Very English, very Methodist, and very middle class, they imbued in Harold a conservative worldview that would last his entire life.

When he met Madge in high school, Bishop was instantly smitten and vowed that he would marry her. But it wasn’t to be. One night, the teenage Harold went home with local trollop, Mavis, who swiftly deflowered him. After Mavis fell pregnant with his son, Bishop felt it was only proper to marry her. The couple had another child before Mavis passed away, leaving Bishop to raise his teenage children on his own. Struggling to cope, he reacted in the only way he knew how – by embracing the conservative values and strict parenting style his parents had imparted to him during childhood. Politically, his first vote in a Federal election was for Menzies in 1958, beginning a relationship with the Liberal Party that would only drive his kids away further during the swinging sixties.

Bishop moved to Melbourne in the 1980s. By then, he was a middling man, a tuba player and a Salvation Army volunteer. His individualist, anti-Labor, traditionalist views found a welcome home in solidly middle class Errinsborough. Throughout his life, he had stayed loyal to the Liberal Party. He couldn’t wait to see the back of Whitlam, thought Fraser could’ve gone a bit further in the 1970s, and resented Keating’s sneering at Australia’s British traditions.

Having just bought the coffee shop, Bishop rejoiced when Howard came to office in 1996, certain (although without much evidence) that small business would be better off under the Liberal-Nationals. Moreover, the Australia he had known had changed, and he thought Howard was the man who could reverse the tide. Yet, as the Howard years wore on, Bishop found himself confused. While the deliberate attacks on traditional Australia had subsided, he sensed Howard’s reign was largely an extension of Keating’s. Immediately, Bishop sought a third party in the late-1990s, and for him it was the Christian Democrats.

In 2003, Harold’s life took a dramatic turn after he suffered a stroke. He gave up his vegetarianism, began drinking, left the Salvation Army, and pinched Izzy’s bottom. In this warped state of mind, he also seriously began to consider One Nation as a viable alternative to the major parties. Luckily for Harold, and the nation, he later recovered.

And when he had recovered, he came back to Howard. Even when his church criticised the treatment of refugees, the participation in US wars of adventure and tacit support for torture, Bishop stayed with Howard. He remains a loyal Liberal today, heartened by Tony Abbott’s views on the carbon  tax and his outward Catholicism.

Harold Bishop

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