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Ancient and modern

Jean-Claude Juncker speaks to Britain like a Roman emperor

…and David Cameron is responding like a loyal imperial governor

12 March 2016

9:00 AM

12 March 2016

9:00 AM

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, made a typically brilliant intervention in the EU referendum debate by arguing that ‘Whoever does not believe in Europe, who doubts Europe, whoever despairs of Europe, should visit the military cemeteries in Europe.’

Cicero made just this point to his brother Quintus, who in 59 bc was about to embark on his third term as governor of Asia Minor (now western Turkey): ‘Asia ought to remember that, if she were not governed by us, she would hardly have been spared the disasters of external war or internal discord. But our government cannot be maintained without taxes, and Asia ought without resentment to pay over some of her wealth as the price of permanent peace and quiet.’


So speak Masters of the Universe, who expect those they control to know their place. The Greek toff Publius Aelius Aristides (c. ad 117–181) — note the Romanised name — also came from Asia Minor and understood exactly how to play the game. His most famous speech was made on a visit to the imperial household in Rome, extolling the emperor and the governors he had put in place across his empire.

Read this, and think of Cameron as a governor: ‘So great is the governors’ reverence for the emperor that they believe he knows their business better than they themselves do, and hence they respect and listen to him far more than one would a master overseeing them and giving them orders (i.e. than obedient slaves)…. And if the governors are in the least doubt about the justice of any legal claims, public or private, brought by those they rule, they send at once to the emperor for his rulings and await his reply, as a chorus awaits its trainer’s instructions …careers are open to talent, rich and poor find contentment and profit in your system, there is no other way of life. Your rule is a single and all-embracing harmony.’

Such Cameronian sentiments are a far cry from his Bloomberg speech just three short years ago, but after his recent ‘reforms’, he knows who his masters are, and they are not us.


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