Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Applauding Berlusconi's Buffoonery – Boris Johnson aims out of the vase

Boris Johnson, writing in the Spectator, suggests that it would be a shame were Silvio Berlusconi to lose the next election.

Focussing primarily on Berlusconi’s legendary gaffes, suggesting “they help to make him fallible and human, and to explain his popularity”, Johnson admits that five years of the Forza Italia government have “been a disappointment, and that his attacks on the size of the state have had all the incisiveness of limp fettucine [sic]”. At the same time though, Johnson “cannot help hoping that this peacock will be given one last chance to convert his outrageousness into real political bravery, and reform the Italian economy”.

Perhaps there’s some ‘projection’ going on here, portraying Berlusconi as a likeable buffoon braving the ‘politically-correct’ brigade while holding a torch for Thatcherism, and the free market. Well might Johnson laugh at Berlusconi’s jokes, and the people who find them impossibly offensive – Johnson doesn’t live in Italy, or face the effects of Berlusconi’s politics, a politics that has precious little in common with the conservatism that Johnson espouses.

With an overwhelming majority in parliament, five years of government have seen sweeping reform of legislation, primarily in areas beneficial to Berlusconi’s business interests.

Changes have been made to the sentences for false accounting. Not, as one might reasonably imagine, increasing them in order to ensure transparency in financial markets – but rather reducing them. In September 2005, Berlusconi was cleared of charges of false accounting in relation to All Iberian, thanks to this new legislation.

Changes have been made to broadcasting legislation, saving one of Mr Berlusconi’s television stations that, in accordance with regulations limiting media ownership, was due to be forced off the national airwaves and onto satellite. Rather than breaking up a dangerously anti-competitive* media holding, under Berlusconi’s government, it has been consolidated.

Changes have been made to the statute of limitations for various offences. It’s worth noting that a number of prosecutions against Berlusconi and his associates, prior to and after these changes, resulted in charges being dropped, not for lack of evidence, but rather because the statute of limitations had been reached.

Johnson suggests that Berlusconi “could have done far more, in his first term, to tame the unions and reform the labour markets and generally get Anglo-Saxon on the economy”. Which shows exactly how he has misunderstood Berlusconi’s politics. Lip service is paid to the ‘free market’, but the economy under Berlusconi has and will remain resolutely ‘Italian’. Reducing the likelihood of successful prosecutions in cases of corruption, bribery, and false accounting can only favour the type of business that relies on power and influence. The type of business that prospers from limited competition. Need we suggest what type of business Mr Berlusconi is involved in?

Berlusconi’s buffoonery is another matter. This monkey is no politically-collect prude, and has often laughed both at the gaffes and at those who remain so indignant to them. Leaving aside the question as to whether it’s a prime-minister’s responsibility to make us laugh (or, more often than not, cry), Berlusconi’s own attitude towards cutting-edge-comedy is worth noting. In the last five years some of Italy’s favourite comedians have been chased off the national airwaves. The much noted case of Sabina Guzzanti gives a good example of how Berlusconi handles comedy. Guzzanti’s programme RAIOT, a satirical show with impersonations of major political figures (