Postcard from... Milan


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The Independent Online

The spectre of Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator, still haunts Italian society. Seventy years after his death, Il Duce continues to divide those who shudder at his name and a minority who note the trains were more punctual back then.

This week it was the three-time premiere Silvio Berlusconi who reminded Italians – and the rest of Europe – of this ambiguous attitude with his comments that the dictator had done some "good things", after the tycoon had dozed through a Holocaust Memorial ceremony in Milan.

One Italian journalist, Michele Novaga, fumed: "I'm lost for words. He wasn't invited. He sat himself in the front row and then he slept through the event dedicated to the memory of those who were herded away in cattle carts and never seen again. And then even said, that apart from the race laws, Mussolini governed well."

The next day Alessandra Mussolini, the right-wing MP and granddaughter of Il Duce, was on national television, defending her grandfather against the backlash provoked by Berlusconi's comments.

The hectoring Ms Mussolini is used to getting her own way on TV debates. This time, however, she came up against a journalist, Andrea Scanzi, who was unflinching in his condemnation of the dictator.

An outraged Ms Mussolini called the journalist a "dickhead" and stormed out of the studio – unwisely leaving Mr Scanzi with the floor and the last word: "Thank you for the 'dickhead' remark. I have respect for all the people devastated by your grandfather. But definitely not for you or your grandfather." A moment of rare moral clarity.