Meet Beppe Grillo and Italy's new 'Five Star' government - including the air hostess, the electrician, the housewife...

All the newly elected Five Star MPs have in common is lack of experience

Milan

Until a few weeks ago, Ivana Simeoni, 62, was a telephone operator for the emergency services in Latina, south of Rome. Within days she’ll enter the opulent Palazzo Madama as a Senator for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement led by the comedian-turned-activist Beppe Grillo.

Four hundred yards down the road her son Cristian, a 39-year-old electrician, will make his debut as an MP in the Camera dei Deputati in Palazzo Montecitorio – Italy’s lower house of parliament.

Ms Simeoni is 14 years younger than the ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, yet is still one of the oldest Grillo parliamentarians. A glance at her colleagues  –108 newly elected Five Star MPs and 53  new senators – reveals a striking gallery of fresh young faces, many of them women, who are about to hit the crusty, male-dominated corridors of the Italian parliament.

 While investors and foreign governments fret over the financial implications of the general election, Italians are struggling to get to grips with its social and political implications.

Establishment figures have been quick to mock the slightly dumbstruck new cohort of parliamentarians. Many have appeared in front of TV cameras since the election earlier this week, replying with “umms” and “dunnos” when asked what they’ll do or how they will organise themselves in parliament.

Ms Simeoni has some plans, however, even if they’re not fully fledged. “There are so many things to clarify and decide, but we’ll manage it somehow,” she said. “My interest is in health. It’s close to my heart because I’ve always worked with ambulances.”

She said that her movement will decide whether to support the centre-left in passing laws in the Senate on a “moment by moment” basis – and significantly, only after all Five Star supporters have had the chance to give their opinions via the internet. “We [the parliamentarians] are the spokespeople for the movement,” she said.

There is no such thing as a typical Grillino. All they’ll have in common will be their lack of political experience.

Laura Castelli, a 28-year-old tax consultant from Piedmont, will represent the Five Star Movement in the Senate. She told La Repubblica: “I can’t wait to join the parliamentary budget commission and use my experience to start rooting out all the waste.”

 Alfonso Bonafede, 36, a civil rights lawyer with an interests in class action and Fabio Vistori, 42, an engineer with “a wife, three cats and a low environmental-impact house” are among the other Grillini newcomers due to start mixing with Italy’s loathed career politicians in parliament.

The astonishing responsibility has been thrust upon these political debutantes at a moment when Italy has never seemed so rudderless.

A government formed by the centre-left will be a lame-duck. The head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano – a reassuring figure to the nation – is due to pack his bags at the end of April. And of course the shock abdication of Pope Benedict will leave pious Italians without a spiritual leader until a successor has been elected.

How Mr Grillo will manage his team when he’s not able to enter parliament himself due to a manslaughter conviction following a fatal car crash, how these political debutantes will organise themselves and whether they’re able to resist the perks and power that have corrupted so many other parliamentarians, remains to be seen.

The party’s reluctance to enter into any formal pact with the political establishment was underlined when Mr Grillo slapped down tentative approaches by the centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who needs Five Star support to pass laws in the upper house. He called the shell-shocked Mr Bersani “a dead man talking”.

This typical Grillo putdown attracted some criticism on his famous blog from Five Star supporters who suggested a little pragmatism as well as aggression was needed now from the demagogue leader.

The Five Star Movement is at its heart a reaction against Italy’s self-serving and corrupt politics. A founding aim is to cut parliamentarians’ salaries (the highest in Europe) by 80 per cent and to ensure financial accounts of all state bodies are accessible to the public.

But Vincenzo Scarpetta, Italy analyst for the Open Europe think tank, said the fact that the Grillini are untarnished by Italy’s parliamentary gravy train – which can see some MPs earn in excess of €18,000 a month – formed a crucial part of their appeal. “People were voting for welfare and against austerity, but not only,” he said. “They want an end to corruption and to politicians helping themselves.”

Another of Italy’s gilded institutions, the press, isn’t immune to the shock waves. The Five Star Movement is also calling for the axe to fall on the arcane state subsidies for newspapers.

This indifferent or even hostile attitude to the press was reflected in Beppe Grillo’s brusque greetings for TV cameras this morning after his poll triumph in which his fledgling party won 25 per cent of the vote.

Social media and activism built his Five Star Movement, not careful collaboration with the media, and neither Grillo nor his Grillini feel the need to do its bidding now.

Politics professor James Walston of the American University in Rome noted in his blog that Grillo’s movement had “no spokesman or clear mechanism for deciding on policy – it might dissolve in a few weeks, it might develop an independent statute or it might stay under Grillo’s direct control”.

But he was not alone in noting that when Italians go back to the polls – probably sooner rather than later – the protest vote which has shaken the political establishment this time might well destroy it at the next ballot if ordinary people’s concerns aren’t dealt with in the interim.

German party leader upsets Italy's Premier

Rising tensions in the EU after Italy’s failure to elect a stable pro-euro government were underlined when the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, cancelled a meeting over comments made by Germany’s opposition leader, Peer Steinbrück. 

The German centre-left figure attacked protest vote leader Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi, who both did better than expected at the polls. He told a Social Democratic Party event in Potsdam on Tuesday that he was “appalled that two clowns won”, causing the Italian President to cancel talks with him. Germany is widely seen as favouring the continuation of unpopular austerity measures in debt-laden Italy.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
People walk through Autumn leaves in St James's Park yesterday
tech
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 General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits