Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Osborne and the Athenians

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Osborne and the Athenians

Article excerpt

As a result of George Osborne taking up five jobs on top of his role as MP for Tatton, an ethics watchdog wants to know what the public thinks about MPs having other jobs. One problem is that people's low opinion of MPs makes balanced judgment difficult. The same was true in the ancient world.

There were no 'parties' with 'policies' in democratic Athens, only 'speakers' (the equivalent of our 'politicians') at the weekly Assemblies, often holding some office, and attempting to persuade the listening citizens to vote for their solution to whatever problem the Assembly was facing. Comic poets obviously laid into them, characterising them all as 'robbers' and 'blackmailers', 'shameless' and greedy for bribes, contrasting them with past generations, who had been 'frugal' and 'self-denying', men of action, not fancy talkers. Speakers equally laid into other speakers, presenting themselves as innocents in the dirty world of politics, while their opponents were hardened deceivers, 'artists in words' and 'concocters of arguments'. One speaker said: 'In the past, you (the Assembly) were master of the politicians . …

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