Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why it's not about Silvio (and what this could mean for Ed)

The only bum note of our recent Jordan trip was at a bar one evening when our (Italian) tour group predictably got on to the subject of Silvio Berlusconi and his not inconsiderable sins. Everyone agreed he was the shame of Italy in much the same way I imagine a group of liberal UUs would have wrung their hands over Dubya.

All that is except a woman from Rome who, her cheeks flaring (although maybe it was the beer, maybe the sun) said: Well who else is there? Tell me - who else is there to vote for?

Cue embarrassed silence then everyone talking at once (ie, no change there). But I was left thinking (and I had plenty of opportunity to think, unable as I was to keep up with much of the discussion) she had a point. Not by voting for Silvio, I hasten to add, but that the existence of Silvio was not the fault of the right, it was because of the failings of the left.

Silvio is successful not because Italians are intrinsically right-wing (if anything they err to the left) but because the left has consistently failed to reflect the concerns, or speak in the language, of ordinary people. Silvio does.

I was reminded of this following yesterday's election of Ed Milliband as the new leader of the British Labour Party. Although the majority of party members and its MPs voted for his brother David, the endorsement of the unions swung it for Ed. Needless to say Ed was the more "left-wing" candidate, while David was much more popular in the country as a whole.

Although I have nothing against Ed's politics, this does seem reminiscent of the Italian left, which, with the exception of Nichi Vendola - the Obama of the South - seems determined to ignore the voices of ordinary folk while it converses with itself, at the end of which it fails to understand why no one votes for it.

Labour's (well, the unions) choice of Ed seems a bit of a missed opportunity, particularly when the Tory administration is about to embark on a highly unpopular - and ideologically-driven - series of cuts. Every time Ed opens his mouth, they will simply label him the voice of vested interest. What am I saying? They've done so already.

Or maybe I'm just sore cos I voted for David. And Oona. And John.

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