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Berlusconi sets up an ‘anything could happen’ election

Posted on 10 December 2012 | 1:12pm

I have been trying to imagine what the general reaction would be if Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, John Major or Margaret Thatcher suddenly announced they were planning to run for PM again. Regardless of their respective talents, appeal or skill, I think I only have to pose the question to get most people’s answers. There have been exceptions, but once is usually thought to be enough. Not for Silvio Berlusconi though…

Mrs T is said to be unwell, yet she is alone among the four who is older than Berlusconi who, not for the first time, has given Italy his well-known mix of shock, energy, comedy and charisma, and announced he is back in the race, bringing a premature end to the technocratic austerity crisis government of Mario Monti in the process.

Yet for every shaking head I have met in two days in Rome, there is another that shrugs, sighs and-or smiles and says ‘you have to hand it to him…’

What exactly one is expected to hand to him I am not sure, but he is back doing what he likes best – making waves, making the weather, upsetting the establishment whilst also being desperate to be the dominant factor within it.

I have been speaking at a conference here and have just done a long arranged interview with La Stampa. Originally it was planned to be about Europe, the eurozone crisis, the role of communications within it, and a bit of coalition-plogy, and whither Britain (towards the exit door if David Cameron’s make it up as you strategy (sic) goes unchecked)

But instead every question had as its backdrop Berlusconi – could he win, should Mario Monti stand, how should he play Berlusconi if he does, is Berlusconi a threat or an opportunity for Pier Luigi Bersani (main contender for the left), can Berlusconi get votes back from the anti-politics Five Star Movement?

The rational part of me says someone who has been around so long, the cause and focus of so much controversy, and for whom no amount of hair dye and weaving can hide the reality that he is half way through his eighth decade, has no chance. But perhaps more so in Italy than elsewhere, politics is as much about emotion as reason. Monti was what the country thought they needed as the crisis hit Italy, but it remains to be seen whether his popularity as a technocrat will translate when – and if – he decides to run for elected office.

The rational part of me says that the Italians cannot ignore the potential risk to reputation and market stability that the mere suggestion of a Berlusconi return is provoking. But you just need to sit amid a discussion on the subject to know that one can play both ways too.

The journalist from La Stampa asked me who would win? I had just done a speech to the energy group Enel in which I emphasised the importance of clear, thought through positions rooted in an understanding of strategy. All of which flew out of the window as I told the unvarnished truth … ‘I haven’t got a bloody clue.’

This will be an ‘anything can happen’ election. If I had to put my life on it, I would say Berlusconi cannot win. But I wouldn’t put my life on it.

  • Anonymous

    We know things are bad here, but many of us are hoping that within a couple of years we will be able to vote out the people who are getting it all wrong and serving themselves so richly in the process. The Italians seem to have had no such luck in their recent past. And the man who should be in jail wants to stand again… I think we would all scratch our heads at the state of Italy if he were to succeed. And my heart would go out to all the other world leaders if they had to tolerate that appalling man again.

    And since you have conjured up memories of Berlusconi, I now remember the Blairs rather brazenly holidaying with him while he was recovering from a hair transplant and wearing a Popeye hanky on his head. Doesn’t say much for them, I’m afraid.

  • Berlusconi is charismatic in the same way that, when confronted with a pile of sawdust, a plank of wood might be considered charismatic.
    Unfortunately it’s not possible to single out Berlusconi, as if the rest of the country and it’s historical development are no different from yours. You have to look at the whole thing in a historical context.

    Italy is a basket case of a country, where politicians collude to keep the voting public as ignorant as possible. Look at the national broadcaster Rai, 75% owned by the Government (by the Ministry of Economic Development) so everything is politically controlled.

    When Italians are significantly hungrier and poorer, then things will start to change. But not before.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Man of many interests.
    According to the European Commission Italy´s GDP will fall 2.3% this year, 0.5% next.
    Unemployment is 11.1%.
    Debt as share of GDP is set to hit 128%. €1,900bn!
    Citigroup gives much darker forecasts.
    The EUROPEAN PROJECT was supposed to bring STABILITY.
    The whole rationale of economic integration was stability.
    But the opposite has happened!
    Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy are heading for bankruptcy.
    The idea of same MONETARY POLICY by European Central Bank (ECB) is crazy.
    The idea of SAME CURRENCY (euro) is crazy.
    Different countries need different interest rates and currencies.
    The idea of FISCAL PACT is crazy as it makes the disastrous AUSTERITY compulsory for all eurozone countries.
    The idea of a United States of Europe is crazy.
    Soviet experiment showed that CENTRAL PLANNING and COMMAND ECONOMY do not work!
    We do not need another try. Hayek has already spoken!
    The European project is, in fact, the GOLDMAN SACHS project.
    Mario Monti was international adviser to Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is majority owned by NM ROTHSCHILD & SONS.
    Monti is a member of Bilderberg Group (Rothschilds/ Rockefellers) and Trilateral Commission (D. Rockefeller).
    He is a member of Spinelli Group which aims at federation in Europe.
    Monti sits on the board of Friends of Europe financed by IMF (Rothschilds) and World Bank (Rothschilds).
    Monti is a member of Bruegel with corporate members like GE, Goldman Sachs, UBS and Schroders (all Rothschilds).
    Mr Monti sits on board of Moody´s owned by Rothschilds.
    He is a member of Atlantic Council together with Henry Kissinger (Bilderberg).
    Mr Monti is said to be a freemason, but he denies this himself.
    Silvio Berlusconi was a member of MASONIC lodge P2, Propaganda Due.
    The media tycoon is worth $5.9bn. He owns Fininvest. And AC Milan.
    The support for his centre-right People of Freedom party is only 14%. Centre-left Democratic Party has twice the amount.
    Goldman Sachs finances Bilderberg Group which is behind the idea of EU and euro.
    Peter Sutherland, chairman of Goldman Sachs International, sits on the steering committee of Bilderberg Group.
    Goldman Sachs created the EUROZONE CRISIS by secretly lending Greece €2.8bn.
    Goldman Sachs controls Wall Street and owns the Fed together with JP Morgan.
    Wall Street controls IMF and World Bank.
    Mario Draghi, head of ECB, was MD at Goldman Sachs.
    Mark Carney, next head of the BoE, worked for Goldman Sachs.
    As did Robert Zoellick of World Bank, Romano Prodi, Lucas Papademos etc.
    Goldman Sachs rules the world!

  • After your speech at Enel this morning, where you said that the customer just wants the lights to turn on, mine have been off for the last Hour! Are you a witch as opposed to a spin Doctor? 🙂
    I wondered if it would be possible to have a written copy of your speech? I train the Managers of Enel in business English (and dictated the initial email inviting you to speak there) and would love to use it for lessons for them

  • Anonymous

    “Eh! You know, Berlusconi is very funny man. We vote him since he is very funny. Is more funny than the English Prime minister, Macaroon, and is molto more funny than the dutchman in Francia. My business is selling the tanning lotion that give you a great tan. Si. Is very good, So, I vote for Berlusconi. He is good for the business in Italy. Eh.”

  • Ahh so that’s who Boris is trying to emulate!

  • Imran Ali

    Berlusconi was a “playboy” prime minister. We simply cannot take him seriously and should see his re-election as captain of the ship in these turbulent stormy economic seas as a spanner in the works for those trying to make Europe work. We need strong leadership to steer Europe on course for economic stability, then economic recovery. Italy is the third largest economy in the Euro-zone with a debt 5 times that of Greece. How will it pay it back? Not quite sure Berlusconi’s plan, if re-elected as Prime Minister will seriously address this tremendous challenge. Europe, not just Italy, needs a serious contender.

  • Anonymous

    About over ten years ago, used to be sent on a few occasions by work to install and service some engineering processing equipment at a research telecoms facility in Turin/Torino. Anyway, had to go into one of their banks to get some Euros, and it was like stepping back to UK 1970’s, with wooden desks and no cages and all that. And their landline and telephone business was as like 1970’s UK GPO. Sent a postcard from there too to the UK – took over a week to arrive.

    Now no criticism to the Italian people, but they do have their own form of maniana. Lovely people though, and Turin is a stunning beautiful place, with the Alps in the distance.

  • Anonymous

    Us taffies breed the best in philanthropy, even Patten is impressed, and no doubt that takes a lot,

    Sorry all if I am blowing my own whistle of our people, and thieving some credit, but still.

  • Anonymous

    Good photo of Turin here – us welsh have connections there Alastair, as in John “the gentle giant” Charles in footie that played for Juve, amongst others…


  • Anonymous

    OOPS, no clickable pic with that Torino pic, try this one instead,

    That’s better.

  • Anonymous

    Boris is a card, that is all I have to say Lucy!

  • Anonymous

    Bugger it Alastair, might as well post this – three Italian songs, one after the other. Ok, from the sixties, and yes, based in from northern Italia. But ladies in our lives will like this though, no doubt about it, one hopes,

  • Anonymous

    Bugger bugger, vid wrong one, these three Italiano songs, first uno same,

  • Anonymous

    Ian Rush at Juve, Torino, in eighties kit,

    But was a bit of an, ahem!, according to this, not quite a success they were hoping, : )))