I was delighted by the outturn of the Italian election. It is very good news that the new protest movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo, called the Five Star Movement, won 25 per cent of the popular vote while the centrist bloc, the Centre Left, which led the field was not far ahead.This was a terrific result for Mr. Grillo and his followers, seeing that their party is only three and a half year’s old.
This result may be troubling for those who wished to see Italy produce a government that would obediently follow the austerity programme designed by the outgoing Prime Minister, Mario Monti. It was likewise disturbing for other Eurozone countries who don’t want doubts cast on their plans for ever closer union. Moreover political establishments everywhere, including the Westminster village, simply hate the idea that outsiders can suddenly break through and throw them out. Yet Italy now has 108 Five Star MPs and 53 Five Star senators. Or, to put it another way, 161 members of the Italian political class suddenly find that they have been cast into outer darkness. Good news, I say.
What has produced this astonishing result? The common explanation is that it represents a reaction against Italy’s self-serving and corrupt politics. Let us stop and reflect upon what this really means. The Italians who voted for the Five Star Movement are saying that so far as decisions made by government are concerned, there has to be a prior condition. Those who make laws and devise national policies must have clean hands.
They must not put party interest ahead of the national interest. They cannot accept promises of material advantage in return for casting their votes in a particular fashion. They cannot dip their fingers into taxpayers’ pockets by voting themselves lavish salaries and perks – some Italian MPs have been earning 18,000 euros a month!
Does any of this remind you of our own country? Putting party interest ahead of the national interest is a constant. That is why the Coalition Government often postpones decisions until after the next election even though they should be taken as soon as possible. The influence of lobbyists on British politics? It is profound. News International’s campaigns to bend politicians to their will are as good an example as any. And as for dipping fingers into taxpayers’ pockets, the recent Parliamentary expenses scandal says it all.
In fact I believe that Britain is following the same downward path towards ungovernability that Italy has long followed. Which is why, if readers will forgive me for reminding them, I launched a political movement last autumn, Democracy 2015, to do something about this.