Italian Politics Better Than Verdi

Just back from quick catch up trip to Italy and as I return I learn that dear old Silvio B has been found guilty – again – of tax evasion and sentenced to one year in prison. He won’t serve it of course because as long as he is in parliament he has some immunity. Perhaps he should have asked one of the ladies in his life to take some speeding points and then he would be behind bars but in Italy as in England the big corruption goes unpunished.
The Enrico Letta government is to put it mildly heterogenous. Letta himself started life as a DCer but on the more socially aware wing of Italian conservativism. He was then an MEP sitting in the liberal ALDE group in Strasbourg. Then he moved to become number 2 in the PD Рthe fusion party set up in 2007 mainly consisting of PCI (communist) members. I saw loads of posters for the Refondazione Communista which carries the torch for hard-line left politics like Jean Luc M̩lanchon in France, Syriza in Greece, or Die Linke in Germany. It is curious that the economic crisis in Britain has not given birth to any leftwing political movement.
The new government has coupled PD, ex-commnist ministers with Berlusconi men and women. Already Letta has had to agree to withdraw a property tax that his predecessor, Mario Monti, had brought in. That was Berlusconi’s main campaign platform and he won – again – the votes of Italy’s middle classes who do not want to pay any new taxes.
Beppe Grillo, the clown (literally) with a Nigel Farage loudmouth style stays out of government but people seem now to see him as just a protest vote dustbin. There is something profoundly anti-democratic to campaign for votes, win 25 per cent, and then refuse to take any responsibility for the hard decisions Italy needs.
I was staying near Siena in rich(ish) Tuscany. But the poor farmers I have known over more than three decades seem to be driving bigger and faster cars and there is new housing development eating into the Sienese countryside. The city was heaving with shoppers and Pisa airport was fuller than ever.
So without getting into ‘crisis, what crisis?’ there is some sense that Italy will survive and the notion of the rest of Europe being in meltdown while plucky little England with its devalued currency, lack of growth, and wrenching north-south poverty divides is the blessed nation of Europe does not make sense.

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