Ancient and modern

Forget Ukip – what we need is some ostracisms

Ancient Athens really knew how to deliver a protest vote

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

For all Nigel Farage’s appealing bluster, he is never going to be in a position to get us out of Europe or, indeed, achieve anything at all. He is, in other words, pointless. The sole consequence of his emergence on to the political scene will be that the next election stands a good chance of producing an Italian-style hodge-podge: no winners at all. Ancient Greeks would have demanded an ostracism.

An ostracism was a way of getting rid of a political troublemaker in order to clear the decision-making air for the democratic Assembly of Athenian citizens. It was not a legal process, with prosecution and defence and verdict; nor was it a punishment, affecting the honour, status or property of the citizen ostracised. It was a decision taken by the citizenry itself, against which there was no appeal, for that citizen to go into exile for ten years.

Every year, the Assembly was asked it wanted to trigger one. If it did, it was held two months later (a useful cooling-off period for reflection and discussion, if passions at the time were high). Without any formal debate, let alone any list of nominees for the chop, citizens on the day scratched on an ostrakon (a piece of broken pottery) the name of their candidate and, as long as 6,000 ostraka were marked, the loser went into exile. Given that the measure was precautionary, he could be recalled before the ten years was up if the political situation was such that his stance was no longer a threat.

All, in fact, very civilised. The only problem was: what if the ‘wrong’ man was ostracised? It did happen, and would probably happen too if we had the system: no doubt the electorate would identify Clegg as even more pointless than Farage and ostracise him.

The fact is that, referendum or no, the only way we will ever leave Europe is if Europe boots us out (e.g. for refusing to join the euro). Get over it. Vote Farage in 2015, and the only result will be a political farrago.

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  • cargill55

    Why ostracise millions of UKIP voters?
    Shouldn’t they have a say in this Britain that’s being torn apart by the failed, anti British, anti democratic policies of the rotten, politically corrupt old parties and their bloated cronies feasting on our country?
    Vote UKIP for a sovereign, democratic Britain governed in Britains interests.

  • Extoryfruitcake

    The word “Democracy” have any meaning for Peter Jones? If we have to ostracise anyone, I’d rather start with him.

  • Rik

    “The fact is that” another phrase that Rod can add to his list

  • John Carins

    An attempt to belittle Farage and UKIP using Boris Johnston classically trained references. Yawn. If the EU does “boot us out” then it is because of the likes of Farage and UKIP. The LibLabCon would happily entrench us further into the EU project. Farage/UKIP is not an irrelevance because he is the catalyst to the UK leaving the EU.

    • MikeF

      Agreed though what he says about Clegg is bang on.

  • Fenman

    What a juvenile article. The Speccie needs to get a grip, and get back some depth and gravitas, rather than blind loyalty to the Cameroons.

  • UKIP Kiddie

    This article is full of bull. UKIP is gaining in strength because it says it as it is ~ unlike the LibLabCon who have treated the electorate with contempt all these years. The more I see how this country (UK) is run, the more I yearn for a referendum on the EU. We are running out of time and the only party offering any hope is UKIP.

  • The arrogance and self serving nature of our Political Class and their pathetically servile commentariat, attached like a carbuncle, still knows no bounds I see.

  • Ne11y

    I vote to ostracise Peter Jones for writing this pointless nonsense.

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  • Raddiy

    If I had a quid for every comment made by a half baked hack about the pointlessness of UKIP and Nigel Farage over the last 20+ years, I would be a very rich man indeed.

    The only consistency in their rantings is that they have all without exception been wrong on a monumental scale most of the time, whilst in contrast Nigel and UKIP have been right most of the time. Even if they had tossed a coin, random chance would have given them a better success rate.

    UKIP are slowly, slowly catching the monkey, and will continue to grind the political establishment down until we win, that is the reality, however long it takes we will prevail. Unlike the soft centres who have jumped on the establishment muggins turn tribal political roundabout , we are actually fighting for the politics we believe in, not the party, and most of us have plenty of battle scars from the establishment war against us to prove it.

  • maggi

    “The fact is that, referendum or no, the only way we will ever leave
    Europe is if Europe boots us out (e.g. for refusing to join the euro)”
    I disagree. If our present political establishment stays in power, that will never happen.

    They are all totaly committed to total EU integration, the logical conclusion of which is adopting the Euro.

    The only way we could exit is through a UKIP Government.