Saturday, 27 September 2008

Why I will never be a political columnist

One of the interesting historical tit-bits I picked up in Turkey was the Ottoman institution of "The Cage".

This was their system for assuring a smooth handover of power in the event of the sultan's death. Traditionally, the scheme had been for one of the dead man's sons to slaughter all his brothers, thus removing any fear of rebellion or usurpation. However, the drawbacks to his scheme eventually became apparent, and a different system was put in place. Now, the new sultan's brothers were merely imprisoned in the harem. There, they would have no choice to devote their time to debauchery, palace intrigue and the cultivation of various interesting personality defects. They were given no outlet to the outside world whatsoever; most emerged from this (often lengthy) incarceration as paranoid, ignorant despots addicted to the exercise of power but with no useful grasp on the world they were expected to exercise it in.

When I read this tale of rulers who'd spent decades in their own little fiefdoms before emerging to make an utter ruin of their new kingdom, it immediately struck me that the parallels with Britain's current approach to political succession were superficial, contrived and hopelessly jejune. So bang goes that career.

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