Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Alastair Campbell was called upon in the last 'Ancient & modern' to conjure up some means by which his new chum Gordon Brown might appear less obviously panting to take over from Tony Blair. Claudius (emperor AD 41-55) offers a possibility. In the chaos that ensued in the palace when the emperor Caligula was assassinated ( AD 41) - no one had the remotest idea who, if anyone, was lined up to succeed him - Claudius took refuge behind a curtain, only to be hauled out, protesting, by the Praetorian Guard and hailed as emperor on the spot. That would play well with the tabloids. There must be a suitable curtain somewhere in Westminster, surely? Problem: Dr John Reid might 'accidentally' do a Polonius job on him.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair may judge that his departure from office could hardly have worked out better: all his great initiatives grinding inexorably and at vast public expense into the sand, and Gordon left holding the can.

Perfect! The ancient philosopher Seneca ( AD 1-65), who had been an adviser to Nero before the emperor ordered him to commit suicide, would have applauded.

As a Stoic, Seneca agreed that a man's duty was to 'engage in public business to the end of life, never to stop working for the common good, and to help each and all, even personal enemies, however ancient one's hand. …

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