Postcard from... Milan

 

 

What do you do if you are the unelected head of precarious left and right-wing coalition government, most of whose members are regarded by the public as lazy spongers? If you are the new Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, you organise a weekend trip for your cabinet to a sumptuous five-star hotel in the Tuscan countryside.

Mr Letta said yesterday that he would hold a 24-hour retreat next Sunday and Monday in the Spineto Abbey hotel in Sarteano, near Siena, as soon as he has completed his tour of key eurozone capitals. But he added hastily that ministers would be picking up their own tabs. He said the idea was to “to plan, get to know each other, bond. Everyone pays for themselves”.

He noted that Serie A football teams often went on retreats and had to work together on physical challenges and problem-solving. Mr Letta said the idea was to make the cabinet like the locker room. But Italians are already sniggering at the thought of the new Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, a libertarian human rights campaigner, having to work with reactionary, high-heeled Berlusconi stooge Michaela Biancofiore. Other wags said it was a pity that hard-partying ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi will not be there to organise the evening’s entertainment. Instead, he will be at home keeping an eye on opinion polls.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper said Mr Berlusconi was hoping to see enough of a lead by the autumn in order to pull the plug from under the Letta government and step into the breach once more. If that happens he’ll no doubt organise a few retreats, though ministers probably won’t be invited.

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