It's not Whitehall, but it's farce
Monday 13 October 1997
Like characters in a stage farce, the protagonists of Italy's crazy political crisis kept bumping into each other by accident this weekend. First there was a special evening at Rome's Teatro Eliseo on Saturday to honour the great Marxist film and stage director Luchino Visconti. Across a crowded foyer, the eyes of Fausto Bertinotti - leader of the far-left Rifondazione Comunista party and chief architect of the government crisis - briefly met those of Sergio Cofferati, union leader and ardent supporter of Mr Prodi's government. They did not speak.
Mr Bertinotti later found himself in the company of a whole clutch of erstwhile government ministers in the VIP section at Rome's Stadio Olimpico for the World Cup qualifier against England. Here, at least, they cheered the home team together, but that was as cordial as relations got.
Then yesterday they were all thrown together for the annual March of Peace in Assisi, an event made more poignant this year because of the recent earthquakes. "Doesn't it bother you the way Bertinotti keeps running into you?" one reporter asked Massimo D'Alema, leader of the left-wing PDS and eminence grise of the Prodi government. "Just as long as he keeps walking, it's OK," Mr D'Alema replied with the sort of elusive grin that has Italian political commentators scrabbling around for profound interpretations for days on end.
Having withdrawn his support for Mr Prodi's budget and thus jeopardised Italy's chances of qualifying for the single European currency next year, Mr Bertinotti seems to be having some trouble walking in a straight line, politically speaking. On Saturday, after a bruising meeting with the party grassroots, he announced that bygones were bygones and that he was prepared to co-operate with Mr Prodi - providing that the budget is rewritten.
This is the sort of position-taking that makes Italian politics utterly incomprehensible to the ordinary mortal. How can a politician bring down a government, and then immediately try to resurrect it? Mr Prodi, for one, was unimpressed and told Mr Bertinotti to forget cooperation on any terms except those already offered.
There were more strange goings on in the opposition, where anticipation of early general elections is growing. Silvio Berlusconi, media mogul, erstwhile prime minister and now opposition leader, made the uncharacteristically self-effacing announcement that he would not seek the premiership again but would prefer to control any government that his side formed from behind the scenes.
This was interpreted as a sign of Mr Berlusconi's weakness after a lacklustre 18 months in opposition. Mr Berlusconi suggested Mario Monti, a European commissioner, as a prime ministerial candidate in his place. But Mr Monti immediately announced he was not interested because he wanted to stay in Brussels. The circus continues.
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...