Unity rally blots Bossi's big day

As Umberto Bossi, the leader of the Northern League, declared "independence" in Venice yesterday, he was upstaged by a rival, unity march in Milan by 150,000 supporters of the post-Fascist National Alliance of Gianfranco Fini.

The league ceremony, which was attended by 50,000 people, culminated a three-day pilgrimage along the Po. Water from the source was poured into Venice's lagoon as a sign of the "Padanian soul". Padania is the league's name for its proposed state. The Italian flag was replaced by a Padanian one and a "government" presented. A "foreign minister" to handle relations with Italy and the rest of the world, a "defence minister" and an "economics minister" to oversee the smooth passage from the Italian to the Padanian lira which yesterday, it was announced, became legal tender at the same rate of exchange as south of the border.

"Nothing is the same as before," shouted Mr Bossi to wild applause. "Nothing can stop what will come. We have strength and constancy on our side."

In Milan, by contrast, Mr Fini's march culminated in a tree-planting ceremony laden with symbols of Italian unity. The big turn-out was a slap in the face for Mr Bossi, who drew only small crowds on his trek across northern Italy to Venice.

It was also an embarrassment for the government of Romano Prodi, which has scorned Mr Bossi's calls for a "republic of Padania" but avoided holding unity rallies. Mr Fini accused Mr Prodi of falling asleep while at the helm of the ship of state. "The Prodi government is like the sleeping beauty ... It's significant that only the National Alliance felt the need to organise a rally like this, because in other countries the response to the secessionist delirium would have been organised by the government."

Right-wing mayors, many of them from the south of the country, which Mr Bossi branded a burden to the nation, delivered patriotic messages before Mr Fini spoke.

He drew the biggest cheer when he said the only people in Europe favouring the break-up of Italy were Nazi-inspired Bavarians who dreamed of a Europe dominated by Germany. He also struck a chord when he said it was time for the authorities to rein in Mr Bossi after he called for the creation of a militia.

At the general election in April the National Alliance won 15.7 per cent of the vote to become Italy's third-biggest party. It is part of the main opposition centre-right alliance.

For the rest of Italy, and the rest of the world, the league's antics in Venice seem no more than another of Mr Bossi's outrageous provocations. But the events of the weekend leave Rome with the dilemma of how to stop the mass movements Mr Bossi has set in motion. On a strictly legal basis, his recent actions are criminal. Moves to split Italy are banned by the Constitution, and formation of a private army carries a 10-year prison sentence.

The only option now is sweeping reform but it remains to be seen whether the political machinery in Rome can achieve this before Mr Bossi and his followers push what is still a peaceful protest movement into something more sinister.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...

SAP BI CONSULTANT

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...

Infrastructure Manager - Southampton - Up to £45K

£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice