In the main, Lane's arguments are well detailed and offer an important insight to how and why Berlusconi has managed to come to power. In his attempts to understand or explain the phenomena though there is one jarring note, to this reader. Towards the end of the book he offers an argument that the tolerance of corruption in general, and of Berlusconi in particular, may come from the Catholic culture of the country. &ldquoThat seemed to me to be a valid argument, that there's an idea of forgiveness in a Catholic confessional culture, whereas Protestant countries have a more moral line. Politicians have a duty of accountability – they should reply to questions but Berlusconi doesn't”. While being perfectly correct about Berlusconi, one would question the moral line of the two main 'Protestant' world leaders, Britain and the US. In fact, the three B's – Bush, Berlusconi, and Blair – seem remarkably ecumenical in their distaste for public accountability in relation to Iraq.
Currently Berlusconi is somewhat beleagured. His government holds the record for longevity but it's beginning to show. A stagnant economy, labour unrest, and fractious coalition partners, all suggest that there may be an election before the Government reaches term in 2006. Will Berlusconi triumph again? &ldquoI think it depends on what the Centre Left does. The way they're behaving at the moment doesn't hold out much hope. They're still divided and unable to unite. It was that sense of unity that allowed Berlusconi to win in 2001. Having three different Centre Left leaders within five years of Government, the Italian electorate was confused and Berlusconi presented a re-assuringly simple picture. The Right will win again, if the Left doesn't get its act together”.
If one subscribes to the view that Berlusconi entered politics precisely to protect himself from over eager investigating magistrates, when he eventually leaves office will he, in Lane's opinion, find himself in legal hotwater? What does the legal future hold for il Cavaliere? Lane gives a world weary laugh &ldquoThe statute of limitations. I just don't see him going to jail, I just don't see it happening. Something will happen. A bit like Andreotti. There was the verdict of the Supreme Court recently which was quite clear, and confirmed the sentence of the appeal court. The appeal court said that yes, there had been a crime until 1980 of criminal association. The supreme court finds that he, seven-times Prime Minister of Italy, was guilty of criminal association , and he's a person who appears on TV and is lauded everywhere. I can see the same thing happening to Berlusconi”.
No prizes for guessing what TV channels will be doing the lauding.
Berlusconi’s Shadow by David Lane is available now, published by Penguin/Allen Lane.
Buy Berlusconi’s Shadow: Crime, Justice and… from Amazon.co.uk