By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

HOWARD-JOHN-framedOned of the greatest conservative leaders of our time – Australia's John Howard – has been appointed to the Order of Merit. Only 24 people are members of this Order at any one time and all are handpicked by the Queen.

'I'm very honoured,'' Mr Howard told the Sydney Herald. ''It's a compliment to Australia and a recognition, among other things, of the respect the Queen has for this country. I'm very grateful for it.''

Mr Howard has long been a supporter of the constitutional monarchy and was Prime Minister when the Australian people voted against an elected head of state.  "I've never hidden my support for the constitutional monarchy," he has said, "as part of the good governance of Australia."

The Australian has a lengthy report on Mr Howard's award. Lady Thatcher, Baroness Boothroyd and former Canadian PM, Jean Chretian, are other current members.