Monday, December 27, 2010

Pe ll'aria fresca, pare gia' na festa....

Two and half years ago Silvio Berlusconi proudly announced that the refuse emergency in Naples was over, contributing to his huge popularity in 2008. The Prodi government had struggled to resolve the problem sufficiently quickly and Berlusconi's successful election campaign made much of his promises to clean up Naples, using his entrepreneurial drive and mafia connections famed ability to get things done. Indeed, the piles of rubbish in the streets of Naples were removed, or at least most of them.

Now, at the end of 2010 and halfway through another triumphal Berlusconi mandate, the rubbish is back. The old man is clearly starting to teeter, as is indicated by his desperate narrow escape in a motion of censure last week. Allies are beginning to take their distances and his popularity - although indescribably high for most foreign observers - is on the slide. It can only be a matter of time now, especially since Berlusconi's 74 year old body is finding it hard to keep up with the pace of events - much has been made of his recent tendency (signalled by Wikileaks dispatches) to fall asleep at inopportune moments.

What's next? It's very hard to know, since the main opposition, the PD, is doing just as badly in the polls. Only the populist Northern League is gaining from Berlusconi's decline, and they can't be expected to take a central role in forming a government. My guess is that there could be another big game of musical chairs on the Italian right about to start.

In any case, Berlusconi's resignation (preferably in handcuffs, but let's not overdo it) is high on my wishlist for 2011. Along with Hull City's return to the Premiership, a split in the Lib Dems, serious financial reregulation, the orderly separation of the peripheral Eurozone from the core, the rerouting of the Piccadilly Line through Crouch End, the abolition of mortgage interest relief for landlords, 20 mph speed limits everywhere in London, the restoration of the Net Book Agreement, and the cancellation of the Royal Wedding.

And a pony.