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What can Cicero teach today’s politicians?

    Written in 64 B.C., Commentariolum Petitionis is a letter from Quintus Tullius Cicero to his brother Marcus outlining how to win an election in his bid for Consulship. In 2015 A.D. both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party will face a challenging but potentially winnable election. What can the party leaders glean from Cicero?

    First, both need to cement the support of their MPs. As Cicero says to his brother:

    “Furthermore, take pains to get on your side the young men of high rank, or retain the affection of those you already have. They will contribute much to your political position. You have very many; make them feel how much you think depends on them: if you induce those to be positively eager who are merely not disinclined, they will be of very great advantage to you.”

    At the moment, it seems that David Cameron has the advantage over Ed Miliband on this front. His persistent opposition to Jean Claude Juncker’s candidacy for the President of the European Commission has led to a poll bounce and even the most eurosceptic of backbenchers are singing his praises. Miliband on the other hand still has work to do to ensure his party is fully behind him.

    Secondly, parties proposing tax hikes have not won a British election in decades. Both political leaders need clearly to outline how they will ease the burden on families through effective and targeted tax cuts. It’s almost as if Cicero knew this:

    “Moreover, in his canvass for the consulship, he has preferred to be robbing all the innkeepers, under the disgraceful pretext of a libera legatio, rather than to be in town and supplicate the Roman people.” 

    Thirdly, the party which is able to win over small businesses stands a much greater chance of winning the election. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, driving employment and innovation. Many have deep roots in communities and as Cicero says:  

    “There are many city men of good business habits, there are many freedmen engaged in the forum who are popular and energetic: these men try with all your might both personally and by common friends, as far as you can, to make eager in your behalf; seek them out, send agents to them, show them that they are putting you under the greatest obligation.”

    In the run up to 2015, both parties need to make effective use of the Government’s record over the last five years. As Cicero says, “I say again and again, go on persistently in the path you have begun”.  For the Conservatives this must mean highlighting the success in cutting the deficit and creating new jobs but pointing out that there is further to go.

    Lastly, the parties need to heed Cicero’s advice when he says, “Put yourself above rivalry in eloquence.” Both parties need to be relentless in ensuring that their messages are made effectively in the broadcast, print and social medias. Clear and relevant points for voters like jobs and wages will always be more powerful than ‘predistribution’ or ‘expansionary fiscal contraction’.

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