Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

In this election there is one stupendous problem towering over all parties' ambitions - debt. They all pretend it can be solved painlessly, but know they cannot tell the truth about it. Romans would have known where to start.

Romans made a point of emphasising that Senate and People stood together. Not for nothing was the famous SPQR logo Senatus Populus Que Romanus highlighted on coins, documents, monuments and the standards of Roman legions. It reflected the popular ideology that the interests of the one were co-terminous with those of the other. It is significant that neither Labour nor Tories seem to think in these terms: with both, the rhetoric is 'We will tell you what you can and cannot do.'

The result was that in the assemblies in Rome where the big issues were debated in front of the People (though not voted on;

that was a separate procedure), the speakers had no ideological clubs with which to belabour one another. This was the People's forum, and however grand or wealthy a politician was, he had no option but to proclaim himself to be on the People's side. As Cicero points out, the assembly is a stage on which you must prove that you are the 'statesman who is reliable, truthful and honest'. …

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