Amazons will fight tooth and claw to save Silvio Berlusconi as former PM counts on close female associates

In a country that is all about tribal loyalties, he can still call on some fierce friends, says Michael Day in Milan


He might now be tarred with a permanent criminal record, but Silvio Berlusconi is still calling the shots in Italy. It’s been a torrid summer, even by his standards. In June there was the conviction, to be appealed, for sex with an underage prostitute. The mogul is also facing 12 months’ house arrest or community service now that the Supreme Court has confirmed his conviction for tax fraud. And, worse, he’s due to be kicked out of parliament in September.

The latter has raised for him a nightmare scenario involving humiliation and legal danger in equal measure: without parliamentary protection, he could be picked off by magistrates for other suspected offences, such as bribing a senator to swap sides in parliament, paying a drug dealer to keep a lid on his links with prostitutes and low life in Bari and even an indictment for Mafia association.

But while fascination with women has got him into trouble, Berlusconi is counting on some close female associates to help save him.

Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi had his female security in red berets; Berlusconi’s version, Le Amazzoni, are the over-promoted female politicians in high heels who act as his political bodyguard.

One leading Amazon, Michaela Biancofiore, told La Repubblica last week that either the centre left blocked Berlusconi’s expulsion from the Senate or her party would pull the plug on the fragile left-right coalition; a position that the centre-left premier, Enrico Letta, described as “blackmail”.

Ms Biancofiore, 42, who this year published a book in which she revealed her feelings of love for the 76-year-old Lothario, right, is, like all the Amazzoni, always ready to throw herself into the path of a political bullet on his behalf.

After Berlusconi’s definitive conviction at the start of this month, she told the BBC: “The Italian people are in love with Berlusconi because he’s an innocent.” Having argued with her on a TV talk show, I can attest to the fact that she appears to believe what she’s saying. She has even declared she will take up Berlusconi’s “persecution” by Italy’s “communist” magistrates with the EU Court of Human Rights.

The former equality minister-cum-topless model Mara Carfagna, 37, is another who’s marshalling save-Berlusconi forces and calling on a clearly appalled president, Giorgio Napolitano, to issue an unlikely pardon. And often at her side is the ex-education minister Mariastella Gelmini, 42, who is a constant pro-Berlusconi fixture on the nation’s TV screens.

But if La Biancofiore is the most ridiculous Amazzone, Ms Carfagna the most glamorous and the whining, humourless Ms Gelmini the most irritating, there can be no doubt who is queen of their tribe the truly formidable and, many would say, truly ghastly, Daniela Santanche.

This political beast in Roberto Cavalli leopard-print silk is ever ready to tear into opponents of the Boss and takes no prisoners. It was Ms Santanche, 52, who tweeted on the eve of the definitive tax fraud conviction: “Tomorrow could be the last day of democracy.” Last week, she clawed a fellow right-wing parliamentarian, the unsavoury Maurizio Gasparri, tweeting: “One thing’s certain, he’s never going to die from too much work.”

Armed with an apparently non-existent masters degree from Milan’s prestigious Bocconi University, Ms Santanche appears grotesque and shameless to many Italians. Her influence, however, is undeniable.

It is she who has led the hawkish view in Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom party that the mogul should let the government collapse rather than accept being kicked out. And despite concerns from business leaders that political instability would be disastrous just as a weak economic recovery is in sight, this hawkish view appears to be the one to which Berlusconi is turning.

The media tycoon is, of course, a genius in the use and abuse of television, and employs the attractive faces of Ms Carfagna, Ms Gelmini et al as a foil to the hoary old mugs of both sexes fielded by the centre left. Italy, is, after all a visual nation.

Helped by his hangers-on, glamour pusses and sycophants, Berlusconi is still calling the shots in Italy. He has built and funded the morally tottering edifice  that they are all perched on. And they will defend him come what may.

Ms Santanche articulated the prevailing philosophy a couple of years ago when it emerged that she had pulled strings to get her 25-year-old niece a lucrative job with the Lombardy regional government. She did not deny it but merely said, “That’s what everyone else does”, the “Cosi fan tutti” defence used by Berlusconi’s corrupt mentor Bettino Craxi.

The centre-right appears willing to put the interests of one convicted criminal above those of an economically moribund country, and it is the Amazons leading the charge.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little