Great books you should read: The Dream of Rome

A United Europe, without a treaty?

A United Europe, without a treaty?

London Mayor and former Tory MP Boris Johnson is a man with a passion for the classics, and in “The Dream of Rome” it shows. A moderate eurosceptic himself (Because, as he points out, he actually worked in Brussels as a journalist.) he uses his love of the Roman world to compare and contrast with the hopes and failings of the European Union.

The book is written in a very light-of-touch style, which makes it enjoyable and in parts quite funny, but attempts by eurosceptics to use it as an “I told you so!” will fail, primarily because it highlights the EU’s respect, unlike the Romans, for diversity. He rightly points out that the Romans managed to convert English warlords, German chiefs and Spanish fishermen all into Roman citizens holding similar values (And culinary tastes such as the disgusting fish-sauce Garum, which was to the Roman table what ketchup is to the American.) in a way that the EU has failed to do. But then the EU never put the sword to the throat of its citizens either. And whereas the Emperor Augustus created in himself a uniting image, right down to putting his head on the coinage, for the whole empire, it is doubtful Jose Manuel Barrosso would be willing, or appreciated for,  doing the same.

Of course, could you say the same for President Blair? Augustus pretty much declared himself a god. Tony wouldn’t do that, would he?

A very entertaining holiday read, and doesn’t require too much pre-read knowledge of the Roman Empire. Which is nice.     

Presidential Round Up.

As we head into the final stretch to polling day, let’s look not just at the likely result, but also the after effects.

First up, Sean Gallagher has already won, even if he isn’t elected president on Thursday. He has the potential now to become a national political figure. Having said that, he will face the paradox that if he chooses to remain in politics if not elected, possibly by contesting the European Elections in 2014, he may have to ponder a party affiliation. If he declares for Fianna Fail, it will surely damage him by confirming the doubts about his rupture with FF. Could he seek a nomination from Fine Gael, or possibly stay independent? Either way, whatever happens on Thursday, Sean Gallagher’s political options are now wide open.

Michael D. Higgins and Labour will be disappointed if he doesn’t win, but it won’t be a humiliation. After all, Labour’s first preference vote will probably exceed its general election tally.

Martin McGuinness will be happy enough with the result, but Sinn Fein’s failure to become the definitive party of protest during the campaign will also be a disappointment, given that the party had the potential to emerge as the highest polling party in a national election.

David Norris will probably be happy if he isn’t humiliated, and coming in fourth place would be respectable enough given the depths that his campaign has ended up. He will still win more votes in this election than during his entire political career to date. 

Gay Mitchell and Fine Gael have got to be dreading Thursday, where Fine Gael has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory mere months after an election win. Funnily enough, FG has form on this: having won the February 1973  general election, FG went into the May 1973 presidential election as the favourites, and were then promptly defeated by Fianna Fail. Having said that, Pat Cox must be having spontaneous fits of giggles.

Dana’s campaign never seemed to take off, if anything getting more surreal as it went on. Given her very respectable showing in 1997, coming third in a five candidate field with 15%, the possible margin of error result will be a humiliation. One would also wonder what happened to the Christian right vote?

Mary Davis must rue her entry into the race, yet another victim of the curse of Adi Roche and the temptation of wide but thin celebrity status. She will probably be surprised to be leaving the campaign with her reputation in a worse state than it was when she went in. 

Finally, the other winner of the election has got to be Fianna Fail, who have been vindicated by their decision not to contest the election, especially as Fine Gael look like they may end up losing over €200,000 into the bargain, whereas FF seem to just have to pay for the price of a phone call to Gay Byrne.