Confident Amato spreads his wings

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The Independent Online
YOU might wonder what a Japanese butterfly has to do with storms in New York, or Italian politics for that matter. If so, Giuliano Amato was there to explain it yesterday. It was as much Mr Amato the professor of law as Mr Amato the Prime Minister of Italy who charmed his audience at the London School of Economics. Considering what has happened to his ministerial colleagues in Rome recently - and considering that yesterday was, after all, the Ides of March - it was not surprising that Mr Amato quipped before his speech: 'I am not a full-time politician'.

It was Mr Amato's first foreign trip since winning a vote of confidence in the Senate last week, and it was with visible confidence and humour that he embarked, without a text, on his lecture, 'Italy and Europe: the rules of chaos'. Were the students of the LSE familiar with the bibliography of chaos, including the non-periodical flow and non-linear dynamics? Mr Amato hoped they were. No? They ought to be. Chaos is what happens when we base a forecast on initial conditions and the reality is then changed by unforeseen factors; if we fail to understand these changes, the divergence between the expected and reality increases with a multiplied effect.

Mr Amato had what he said was the perfect example: 'A butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo and after a while there is a storm in New York. This is typical - something happens on one side of the world and we expect good weather.'

Mr Amato wove his theme, occasionally waving his arms and fluttering his fingers like a butterfly, via Maastricht, the European Monetary System, cohesion, subsidiarity and on to Italy proper.

'Politicians are paid to foresee new factors,' he stated recklessly. 'Scholars are much more aware of non-linear dynamics. Our job as politicians is to see new factors and take account of them - to prevent the storm.' Thus he, as Prime Minister of Italy, was the one 'with the responsibility of taking the country out of this mess'.

Italy, he declared, 'now wants a different political class . . . the new electoral system we are working for must not be a new atmosphere for the old party and the old men. The new electoral system must be a new atmosphere for the new party and new men . . . We must get people out of ordinary jobs and into parliament - for the simple reason that the old people will not be accepted any more.'

He himself confirmed his decision, which he said was taken 'months ago', to set an example by withdrawing from politics as soon as his government comes to an end. What thoughts came to him in the middle of the night, he was asked, about what he might have done differently over his years as a Socialist party politician to stop the corruption? There was really nothing he could have done: 'Very few people were aware of the kind of devices we are discovering now.'

But if next month's referendum failed to produce the new electoral system Italy needed, Mr Amato concluded, 'chaos will have generated chaos'. And he warned: 'The butterfly is flapping its wings. It is a huge butterfly, and it is not in Tokyo. It is much closer. It is up to us to understand the message.'