While one particular nightclub in South London may be pleased with till receipts and some PR, this weekend resurrected what I fear is a major threat to the Eurozone “stability.” While stability is not normally a word you could throw around when it comes to Europe at the moment I was starting to see signs for a safer road ahead.
This weekend however saw the announcement from the bold Silvio Berlusconi that he is indeed to step back into the fray of Italian politics and run for PM. Silvio has always been hanging around in the background since being removed from power around this time last year. Like a ghost he has been rattling chains and making the odd comment here and there but I rather hoped he would fade away and retire to a nice villa in Lake Como with his bunga-bunga hareem. How naive of me. This has been rumoured for a while and it was no secret that Mario Monti the technocrat put in place to stabilise efforts in Italy was not seeking an extension to his post. However, Mario Monti has in my opinion done a great job of steering Italy through the latest year of strife and turmoil and that was not an easy feat given their debt load is in a worse position to Spain’s.
One of the worst things that people have to say about Monti is that he is ex-Goldmans and while many find that distasteful it does not define the man. He is also an top economist and strong leader. He is almost German in his business attitude, nothing showy or flashy but gets work done behind the scenes. Profile here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15695056)
Silvio on the other hand is a polar opposite and a casual search through you tube will expose the many gaffes the man has made over the years. My particular favourite is when he dry humped a female traffic warden before getting into his car much to the amusement of his bodyguards and his posse of followers. Hardly the actions of a serious PM and a testament to how bad a shape that Italian politics is in that this man is capable of mounting a comeback. Given he is owner of Italy’s largest media companies you have to wonder exactly how large is Silvio’s little black book of dirty secrets. Most of his are out in the open by now so I guess he feels he has nothing to lose, however he has probably been the fall guy for many a dirty secret in Italian politics over the last few years and he is still standing. I wonder how many participants of the Italian political system would rather their secrets stay buried and not rest with a powerful man such as Berlusconi with the back up of a strong media empire behind him and an agenda of “vendetta.”
We did know that Monti wanted to exit the position he was placed in, I rather hoped he would achieve a sense of civic duty (one that Silvio has proclaimed has touched him) to stay on and guide the country forwards until a new set of Italian leaders emerged from the mess. Italy existed for a long time with a poor strategy, pre single currency they printed money and devalued the currency Lira to great extents to stay “competitive” rather than change structural issues and corruption, then when harmonisation occurred they simple replaced printing money with issuing debt to pay their bills. Italy has a solid manufacturing base to work from but needs dramatic restructuring and strong leadership to change attitudes and stand up to corruption.
This will also not please Frau Merkel who thought that she had closed that chapter by orchestrating Silvio’s execution the last time. Merkel is the lone warrior left standing in the EU political heavyweights. Silvio, Sarkozy and Zapatero have all fallen on their sword during the last couple of years and to be more precise a sword most likely wielded by Merkel. I hope for Italy’s sake she still has the battle instincts in her and the power play to nip this situation in the bud very quickly. Silvio can not and should not return to power, what a gigantic step backwards that would be for Italy and the Eurozone.