So the right has a new hero and what a man they have chosen in Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi.
This is a politician whose latest response to his latest trial for corruption is to get his party to pass a law making him immune from prosecution, a man who has been labelled by the Economist as unfit to govern his country and certainly unfit to lead Europe due to the lenghty list of unfinished trials and accusations of links to dubious organisations.
Berlusconi’s response has been to call The Economist, “communists”.
And now, given a chance to outline his vision for the European Union, on behalf of his country, he spoils a perfectly reasonable speech by likening a German social democrat to a ‘kapo’ – a guard at a Nazi concentration camp – I can’t imagine how his three private tv stations or the state television he controls will have reported that but most Italians will be hugely embarassed by his gaffe.
Even his deputy PM, the ex-fascist Gianfrano Fini, felt his pal had gone too far this time although no doubt his allies in the Northern League, (whose leader and government minister Umberto Bossi recently called for the shooting of illegal immigrants) will be having a chuckle.
Now this might be the sort of thing that amuses our conservative friends (who of course scream blue murder at anyone on the left who misuses fascist or Nazi to describe rightists) but aside from such jolly japes I fail to see what is attractive about Berlusconi, even for the right.
After all Italian conservatives have been in power almost without respite since WW2 and the country has one of the highest income tax rates in the EU. It also has a massive inefficient public sector bureaucracy which Berlusconi has done next to nothing to reform.
But I can understand that the British and European right are short of heroes at the moment – after all their other big name leader is….. Jacques Chirac.