I had a good chuckle to myself today while reading the online version of the Corriere della Sera in my lunch break today. Headline news was, of course, the latest in the Berlusconi saga. The Corriere della Sera is one of the more reputable newspapers and has taken an anti-Berlusconi stance on several big issues, so I was interested to read what it had to say.
Just in case you have been hiding under a stone for the past couple of months, here is a quick summary of the story so far.
Back in April, Berlusconi invited several potential candidates for the European elections to his party headquarters. Among those on his list were an actress, a daytime TV presenter, a former contender for Miss Italia, and an ex Big Brother contestant, none of whom had any political experience.
This, however, was only the beginning of the scandal. In May, Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, filed for divorce, accusing him of “consorting with minors” after he attended the 18th birthday party of Noemi Letizia, who was, he claimed, the daughter of one of his friends, and presented her with an expensive necklace. Since then, Noemi has given interviews claiming that Berlusconi is something of a grandfather figure to her and that she hopes that he will set her on the road to a successful political career. La Repubblica, however, then published an article in which Noemi's ex-boyfriend claimed that Berlusconi had got to know her after seeing photos of her in a casting book that was accidentally left on a dinner table by her agent.
All of this has been reported on in the national press, but the harshest criticisms have come from outside of Italy, where the Italian electorate's reluctance to reject Berlusconi seems less comprehensible. As a result, as the Corriere reported today, Berlusconi's foreign affairs minister has just made a speech in which he condemns the foreign press for its interest in gossip and for lacking the moral values of the Italian papers. Which might just about be believable if a) Berlusconi were not the owner of three television channels specialising in directing camera angles up women's skirts and b) if he were referring to the Daily Mirror and the Sun . It all becomes somewhat less convincing, however, when you have watched the said TV channels for about 20m minutes and when you learn that the main target of the attack is the Financial Times.
Berlusconi's own response to the situation was to say, “Mussolini had troops of Black Shirts, while I, according to the newspapers … have troops of starlets... at least it's a little better.” Well, perhaps, but is that the best that Italy can do?