Asa Bennett is Brexit commissioning editor at The Daily
Telegraph, writing, commissioning and editing analysis and comment as well as running
the daily Brexit bulletin. Right in the middle of all this he published his
first book Romanifesto: Modern Lessons from Classical Politics and now
that Brexit’s all but done and dusted (!) he’s found a few minutes to tell us about
the inspiration behind Romanifesto, why
writing a book is tough but worthwhile, and what’s next on his reading list.
Can you introduce your book in a couple of sentences?
Despite the last days of Rome being around 1,500 years ago,
the shadow of its empire – and what those who lived in it had to say – still
looms large over modern politics. Politics may be less bloody these days, but
in many ways it remains the same. This book delves into these similarities to
examine what today’s politicos can learn from their Roman predecessors. How did
they climb the greasy pole? How did they handle the rough and tumble? What can
Boudicca teach us about Brexit? What could Emperor Hadrian teach President
Trump about walls? No longer should the answers to questions like these be the
monopoly of those who happened to study Classics at university, such as Boris
How did you come to write Romanifesto?
I had wanted to write a book for a while, but my
professional bread-and-butter of Brexit had made for fiendishly tricky source
material. After all, how could I be confident that reams of pages of my book
would not be out of date on publication given how fast events were moving on
that front? By contrast, one can be fairly confident that ancient history is
much more settled. Given that it was my academic passion – having studied it as
my first university degree – I was drawn to consider its timeless lessons and
to write about the tales of ancient politics that could be set just as credibly
in Westminster as in Rome.
Of course, I have also been partly inspired by Latin
evangelists like the Prime Minister throwing out Classical allusions to spice
up their rhetoric.
Are you working on another book or do you have other
projects under way?
I’m still banging the drum for Romanifesto, with appearances this year at various literary
festivals like Lewes and Chiddingstone Castle, so I’ve not shifted focus onto
another book yet. But that has not stopped me mulling ideas, perhaps a
biography of a modern political figure or something else of a more historical
Can you offer any advice to other journalists thinking
about writing a book about their own specialist area?
Have a crack at it. It may be one of the most strenuous
tasks you’ll take on, but it’ll be one of the most intellectually rewarding.
What books are you reading right now, or about to pick
I’ve recently finished Chris Bryant’s biographical series on
Parliament, and once I’ve ploughed my way through Isaac Bashevis Singer’s The
Family Moskat, I’ll be taking on Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad.
Are there any examples of your own journalism that you’re
especially proud of or would just like to share?
I’d have to point to my Romanifesto
book again, justifiably as I’ve sought in my writing on modern politics to be
assiduously journalistic, and so there are nuggets of Westminster tittle tattle
weaved into my prose.