Benito Mussolini's granddaughter Alessandra has vowed to launch a retaliatory campaign against sexist male colleagues in Silvio Berlusconi's ruling party after learning that they were preparing a list of "the best bums in parliament".
Ms Mussolini, 48, was astonished to be approached by PDL (People of Liberty) MP Giancarlo Mazzuca, and asked how she felt about being ranked number five in the list of best (female) behinds for a piece destined for Panorama magazine, the weekly news rag owned by Italy's ageing premier.
"I had no idea what he meant," La Repubblica newspaper reported Ms Mussolini as telling another MP. "The [fifth ranking] person who had proposed the most legislation, maybe?"
"He replied: 'Legislation? I'm talking about bums – and you would be at the number five position.'"
An apoplectic Ms Mussolini rushed to two of Mr Berlusconi's senior lieutenants and on learning that one appeared to be aware of the list, issued a chilling threat. "If a single line of this article is published," she said, "I promise you I will write an article in L'Espresso (a rival left-wing weekly) with my own classification on how long – or short – the micro-penises are among our male members of parliament".
In fighting sexism in Italian politics, even the redoubtable Ms Mussolini, a niece of the film siren Sophia Loren, has a fight on her hands. Feminists note that chauvinism in Italy comes from the very top with unreconstructed 74-year-old premier Mr Berlusconi revelling in sexist jokes, partying with teenage starlets and owning a media empire that introduced vulgar, bimbo-led TV programmes to the masses.
But a determined Ms Mussolini, 48, said she had already started making jokes about the endowment of male PDL parliamentarians, well within earshot. Although known as an outspoken right-winger, the politics of 48-year-old Ms Mussolini are not easily classified. She speaks out against immigration but has taken a progressive stance on the rights of women and gays, and has defended abortion.
Her feminist leanings haven't stopped her posing topless for Playboy or attacking other glamorous women. Last month France's Italian-born first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy felt Mussolini's tongue, after she failed to persuade her husband to welcome the 20,000 or so Tunisian immigrants who were seeking to enter France from Italy. "Why doesn't the first lady welcome immigrants who want to come to France in her chateaux?" Ms Mussolini scoffed.