Jim Armitage: Beppe Grillo’s not funny and he’ll have to grow up now he’s a big player in Italy after election

Global Outlook

Remember at primary school when, on General Election day, we kids would play at staging our own elections? I recall a hard-fought battle in 1979 when we had to choose between a pig-tailed eight-year-old Conservative (campaigning on a ticket of free chocolates for all), a Labour lad (a total ban on homework) and a Liberal (biscuit baking to replace maths).

All very tempting ideas, but not especially good for the country. In Italy, Beppe Grillo's policies are similar, but far more dangerous. Childlike, naïve and economically suicidal.

There has been much mirth and winking admiration for his success at the elections this week. But this comedian is seriously unfunny.

First of all, just look at what he's said he stands for. It isn't so easy to find any actual manifesto ideas among his rabble, so I'll rely on the Economist's synopsis: abolition of trade unions, a 20-hour working week, university lecturers to be assessed and examined by their pupils, the abolition of share options, a cap on salaries of senior executives. Worst of all, a referendum on whether the country should default on its debts and leave the eurozone.

Leaving aside the more bizarre of those (abolition of trade unions? Really?) These are student policies that would send even more investors scurrying from the troubled country, sending its economy into a tailspin.

In case they hadn't realised, the very youth vote which seems to have been his core constituency would be the first to suffer from the surge in unemployment that would follow.

What Italy needs, and what former prime minister Mario Monti was providing, is a period of calm, to carry out the painful restructuring that needs to happen. Mr Monti was boring, but he was doing what Italy, and Europe (whose taxpayers are effectively underwriting Italy, let's not forget), required.

What Italy has now got is turmoil and renewed crisis. So far, Mr Grillo has refused even to countenance forming a working government in Europe's fourth-biggest economy.

That's just childish beyond belief. Or, as many a teacher has said over the years, not big and not clever.

The size of Mr Grillo's Five Star movement's vote means it has entered the world of the adults. It's time for this 64-year-old to grow up. Incidentally, our 1979 election was a better predictor than any of the Eastleigh polling companies came up with last week. The Tory girl won with a chunky majority.

Eu is going too far by blocking bankers' pay

As a long-term ranter and railer against the excesses of bankers, it feels weird to admit to feeling deeply uncomfortable about the European Union capping their bonuses.

It's not that I don't feel angry at the size of investment bankers' pay packets, those hundreds-of-thousands-of-pounds-a-year deals still so common in the finance industry come out of our pensions and savings in some way or another. We should still be furious.

But I'm deeply squeamish that politicians, be they in Brussels or in national parliaments, should be allowed to dictate by law how privately employed staff of privately owned businesses are paid. It seems such a violation of civil liberties.

Local parliaments should continue to nudge pay policy in certain directions by using taxes. They should order firms to disclose pay details of their fattest cats. They should force banks to reveal more details about the size of bonus pots. Crucially, they should encourage more shareholder engagement in pay issues.

But to dictate those pay structures through direct legislation is an infringement too far. Even if the victims are bankers.

And what is a "banker" anyway? Will the new EU rules apply to fund managers, who also earn ridiculous bonuses for investing our money? Will they apply to the hedge funds, who hired the dealers who left the big banks when their trading divisions were closed? Will they apply to derivatives traders working for insurance firms? Will they apply to the thousands of specialist outfits trading bonds, currencies or derivatives?

Take a walk around the City, or the financial centres of Frankfurt and Paris, and you'll never have heard of 95 per cent of the names on the brass plates. But they nearly all carry out some form of activity most of the public would call "banking". Yet I bet they will not be affected by these curbs.

Politicians in Brussels are right to want to reform the banking system, but they must not legislate against a few big-brand firms out of an angry public's clamour for revenge.

Old-fashioned operators who have superior style

Of course, bankers have brought this kind of draconian legislation on themselves by continuing to pay themselves ridiculous amounts of money, often for performing socially irrelevant, even damaging, tasks.

During Paris fashion week, which ended this week, a piece tucked away in the Financial Times served as a reminder of the kind of useful work some old-fashioned bankers still do.

It looked at a few of the fixers and connectors advising the famous high-end fashion firms in times of sometimes life-threatening crisis. These are the consiglieri who give highly valued financial advice to their clients over decades, particularly when steering family firms dominated by ageing patriarchs and matriarchs through the succession process.

People like Francesco Caretti, the banker who has advised the Ferragamo family for so many decades that nobody remembers when he wasn't there. He even sits on the board and is a shareholder. Or Gerardo Braggiotti, the Marcello Mastroianni lookalike who co-ordinated the delicate sale of Valentino to Permira. Mr Braggiotti also used his contacts to introduce new investors to Brioni when the family clans were feuding.

You can't imagine these guys spraying magnums of Cristal around lapdancing clubs and creating toxic get-rich-quick financial products.

Somehow, one doesn't begrudge them their Maseratis and Milanese villas half as much as their shabbier peers on the trading floors.

Groupon's straight talker is a breath of fresh air

The stream of emails I receive from Groupon inviting me to buy face masks, bikini-line waxes and eyeliner is one of the more irritating downsides of modern communications. But it's nowhere near as annoying as the PR industry-driven corporate doublespeak entangling most chief executives' vocal cords these days. So it was delightful to read Groupon's accident-prone boss Andrew Mason's resignation statement. "After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family," he wrote. "Just kidding – I was fired today." Suddenly I like the guy. I find myself scrabbling to find this morning's email: how much was that pedicure again?

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Test Lead (C#, Java, HTML, SQL) Kingston Finance

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Access/Teradata Developer, Banking, Bristol £400pd

£375 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Access / Teradata Developer - Banking - Bristol -...

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home