Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Advice for David Cameron

There is in existence an enormously significant and influential piece of political theory, wider in scope than Alastair Campbell's diaries, could have particular significance for David Cameron, and I certainly recommend that Andy Coulson gives it a squiz over the next few weeks.
The book in question is called Commentariolum Petitionis, and is purportedly the work of the lesser known Quintus Tullius Cicero, the elder brother of Marcus Tullius Cicero. How relevant can an electioneering manual from Republican Rome be to the leader of today's Conservative Party? Well Boris is always very keen on the relevance of the classics to modern life, so lets give him the benefit of the doubt.
Consider what the state is : what it is you seek: who you are that seek it. Almost every day as you go down to the forum you should say to yourself, "I am a new man," "I am a candidate for the consulship," "This is Rome."
Re-iteration of goals and aims, as well as a focus on newness. Very focus group.
It also seems possible that a "new man" may be much assisted by the fact that he has the good wishes of men of high rank...It is a point in your favour that you should be thought worthy of this position and rank by the very men to whose position and rank you are wishing to attain. All these men must be canvassed with care, agents must be sent to them, and they must be convinced that we have always been at one with the Optimates in our political sentiments, that we have never been demagogues in the very least : that if we seem ever to have said anything in the spirit of that party, we did so with the view of attracting Pompeius, that we might have the man of the greatest influence either actively on our side in our canvass, or at least not opposed to us.
In other words, keeping support among senior politicians of your own side is crucial - though it should not be fatal to your chances if you seem to have agreed with the opposition in the past - provided there was a political gain to be made thereby.

Well, quite.
In a word, you must secure friends of every class : for show--men conspicuous for their office or name, who, even if they do not give any actual assistance in canvassing, yet add some dignity to the candidate.
Ministry of all the Talents then? Bob Geldof on the aid commission?
Finally, the hearty zeal of the young in canvassing for votes, appearing at various places, bringing intelligence, and being in attendance on you in public are surprisingly important as well as creditable.
Hurrah for Conservative Future!
I must now speak on another department of a candidate's task, which is concerned with the conciliation of the people. This demands a knack of remembering names, insinuating manners, constant attendance, liberality, the power of setting a report afloat and creating a hopeful feeling in the state.
Is there anywhere a more apposite description of the nature of politics? This could come from the introduction to Jeremy Paxman's The Political Animal.
There remains the third, "This is Rome," a city made up of a combination of nations, in which many snares, much deception, many vices enter into every department of life: in which you have to put up with the arrogant pretensions, the wrong-headedness, the ill-will, the hauteur, the disagreeable temper and offensive manners of many. I well understand that it requires great prudence and skill for a man, living among social vices of every sort, so many and so serious, to avoid giving offence, causing scandal, or falling into traps, and in his single person to adapt himself to such a vast variety of character, speech, and feeling.
Sounds like London.
Lastly, take care that your whole candidature is full of ├ęclat, brilliant, splendid, suited to the popular taste, presenting a spectacle of the utmost dignity and magnificence. See also, if possible, that some new scandal is started against your competitors for crime or looseness of life or corruption, such as is in harmony with their characters.
And there we have it! Come on Mr Coulson, muck-raking is sanctioned by the brother of the greatest orator in history! I can see Gordon Brown as a Catalinus, stained by the murder (politically at any rate) of his co-conspirator. And people say the Classics have no resonance for modern life...

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