Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Robert Harris has dedicated Lustrum, the second of his planned trilogy on the Roman statesman Cicero (106-43 BC), to Baron Mandelson, commenting on the two men's resemblances. There are indeed some.

Both were outsiders who made their own way into elite politics by traditional routes, reached the top briefly, and fell from grace. Cicero, from a grandee family in the sticks, used his growing reputation as an advocate in Rome to work his way to the top. But after his consulship in 63 BC, he had served the elite's purpose and his career stalled.

In 58 BC he was exiled for a year and in 52 BC, much against his will, was sent abroad to govern in south-east Turkey.

Mandelson's grandfather was deputy prime minister, but there was no Bushstyle political succession. After the usual play-acting with Young Socialists etc. , he was appointed Labour's director of communications in 1985. There, like Cicero, he gained a reputation as a formidable master of persuasion, but behind the scenes. He reached Cabinet office, twice, was forced to resign, twice, and was sent abroad into the European Commission.

The big difference is what happened next. Cicero made no comeback. …

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