I’ve been an Italophile for a long time. It survived, just, a year running a company in Milan to the extent that my wedding was held in Italy. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been there, but there are some aspects of life in Italy that nowhere else on earth can approach.
But my Italophilia has been severely strained by Silvio Berlusconi. There’s his ludicrous strutting and posing. His incompetence. The sordidness of his many conflicts of interest. But Boris Johnson thinks this is all a good thing. I suspect Boris sees a lot of himself (excepting the $12 billion and the face lifts) in Berlusconi:
Silvio Berlusconi is a landmark of modern politics. There is no one to touch him for sheer exuberant outrageousness. In his speech, in his dress, his bandanas, his face-lifts, his ludicrous 1950s cruise-ship sexism, he is a standing reproach to the parade of platitudinous Pooters that pass across the stage of international diplomacy.
He once called an important press conference with one of the Continent’s leading Euro-bores, Anders Fogh Rassmussen, the Danish prime minister, and announced that he was going to introduce Mr Rassmussen to his wife, because the Dane was so good-looking that he might divert her from the man with whom she was then romantically entangled, a chemistry professor called Cacciari.
Dio mio! said the journalists. Has any Italian prime minister ever behaved like that before? Has any politician ever cracked a joke about his wife’s boyfriend? Let alone in the presence of some po-faced, bearded and deeply mystified Dane? Only Berlusconi could get away with it, and – as he doubtless calculated – the remark does not seem to have hurt him in the polls, earning him as it did the sympathy of every cuckold and straying wife in Italy, a significant chunk of the electorate.