Sarah Sands: Will old goat be on the menu at Berlusconi's summit?

Share
Related Topics

A petition by Italian women academics that calls on wives of G8 leaders to boycott the forthcoming summit in Italy as a protest against the behaviour of President Berlusconi is gaining signatures. The main topic on the agenda of the L'Aquila summit in July is the stabilisation of Afghanistan, but the chief subject of conversation is likely to be the heroically/disgracefully goatish behaviour of Silvio Berlusconi.

Just as President Obama ushered in a dawn of subtle, complex, individualistic world citizens, so President Berlusconi has his own counter-cultural musical hall line-up of busty women in bikinis, hypocritical bishops and goose-stepping Germans.

He is not the only European leader who behaves differently to the model we expect in this country. An Australian politician I met the other day had been puzzled by a reception he attended at the Elysée Palace. It had been an occasion for global politicians of the centre-right to discuss political principles. President Sarkozy greeted his guests and then disappeared from the room. The politicians eagerly awaited his return so that discussions could begin. After an hour or so they became restless. My Australian acquaintance helped himself to a drink and looked at the view from the window onto the courtyard. To his astonishment, he recognised Sarkozy, in a tracksuit, jogging round the edge. The guests concluded that the explanation for such bizarre behaviour must be that Sarkozy was French.

President Sarkozy is married to a chic woman who records pretentious songs. He is clever, charming, vain, and tried to marginalise the British over D-Day. Because he is French. Similarly, if any politician is going to get away with a cabinet of chorus girls, he will probably be Italian. Remember, Emperor Nero was quite popular with his people. In a country famous for its pornographic television, for its indifference towards the political process and for a historically lax view of rape, Berlusconi is not a freak.

Perhaps each nation gets the scandal it deserves. As a nation of shopkeepers, our greatest political earthquake centres on MPs' supermarket receipts and income tax arrangements. It makes our hearts beat faster.

Yet national stereotypes do not wholly explain why some politicians brush off scandal and others are sunk by it. Even if you share the view of those envious male bloggers who explain that "Berlusconi represents hope for all men that they will still be f*****g in their seventies", you might also acknowledge that he lacks a little dignity.

Some claim that Berlusconi is forgiven his Hugh Hefner-style indulgences because he is so very disciplined about immigration. But policies are not the key to everything. President Obama is often criticised for his policies, but remains worshipped for his charismatic cool.

The fact is that popularity is so fickle that it is indefinable. Gordon Brown cannot understand the changes in the public mood. He was loved for being gloomy and sleepless in a crisis and now he is despised for it. No wonder his election strategy is to hang on and hope for a change of wind. Look how it blew Peter Mandelson into something close to public affection.

President Berlusconi has a 60 per cent popularity rating not because the Viagra generation have voted with their feet, or because Italy is essentially a land of unclothed women and priapic men. His appeal is intangible. That is what makes it so galling for British politicians. There are no lessons to be learned.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn