alea iacta esto

The Insufferable Rory Stewart, MP

In Republican Rome, the Senate headed by the two annually elected consuls held supreme power. They made the laws, were the law and maintained the law. As Rome outgrew itself with republicanism giving way to empire and with the drift towards effective dictatorship, power slowly shifted from the Senate to the Emperor and then on to the military generals and the palace institutions. Before and up to Augustus at least, leaders made their name in the army. They had the men and the arms to win wars and thus respect and to put down revolts if necessary. Sulla, Pompey and Julius Caesar were among the more famous names. After Caesar, Augustus set to institutionalize the monarchy so that by the time of the lyre-playing stage-acting Nero and then beyond you did not need to see battle to sit on the throne. De jure the Emperor held all power but in reality he had become the creature of an institution and real power de facto laid with the army generals and the jostling palace functionaries and other powerful family members. Without their support the Emperor was doomed. The (western) Emperor had became a figurehead for an institution which perpetuated itself until its fall in the fifth century AD.

I was recently passed an article by The New Yorker magazine on the British MP, Rory Stewart. Born of Scottish descent to parents of foreign office and MI6 affiliations, he was educated at Eton; then recruited into the army and by age eighteen was leading a platoon (the sorry state of the British Army?); at 20 he tutored Princes William and Harry. At 24 after his degree from Oxford he went to work for the British Embassy in Indonesia; at 26 he was Britain’s sole diplomatic representative to Montenegro(!); after the fall of Saddam he became deputy to an American regional governor apparently, after just, turning up in Baghdad. He was 29. A few years later he turned up in Kabul working for Prince Charles. He’s now MP for a constituency he never lived in. (I have never understood the British practice of importing parliamentary representatives which seems to me to defeat the object of democracy but hey every country is entitled to her own peculiarities).

Reading this I was torn between envy and admiration. What an over-achiever! How can anyone do so much so young so quickly working at responsible positions for the foreign service? Had the country run out of experienced diplomats? It was then it hit me: of course he’s a spy. His demur defensiveness to that very question in the article points to a categorical admission. As the article went on with Mr Stewart mouthing off about how wonderful he is I came to the conclusion that I was reading about a man who’s been both superbly educated and is an insufferable ass. Which I presume won’t make any dent at all to his upward trajectory. He’s part of an institution, the British institution, and that’s all that counts. There was a comment about him being a future Prime Minister. So what are his chances of going from MP to PM? On reflection I suspect there has, probably, not been a British Prime Minister of recent times who’s not been part of the establishment and come to think of it perhaps the secret service. I think that says a lot and probably enough.


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