While I was away last weekend, Silvio Berlusconi got up to one of his customary wheezes. The jape was a replica of the one he organised a few weeks ago, when the corrupt buffoon (Mail on Sunday) covered the country with Forza Italia gazebos (gazebi?) and held a private ‘referendum’ to send the Prodi government home, wherever that might be. According to the ex-crooner, millions of Italians flocked to the gazebos to vote, while those who didn’t availed themselves of his dedicated phone vote lines (€1.88 plus VAT). Sounds like I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here? Well, of course it does, although here the intention was to get a politician out and a celebrity back in. We’re used to leaders like Putin and Mugabe rigging elections so the final figures weren’t surprising, though Berlusconi’s referendum bore as much relation to a political election as Berlusconi does to a politician.
Shortly after, he announced the founding of a new party that would finally express the will of the people (seem familiar? try saying volk). In order to ensure that this will would be expressed with perfect unanimity he elected himself leader of the new party, established its internal structure, announced its programme and told everyone who would be in it and who wouldn’t.
But, as everyone knows, it isn’t the product that counts in politics so much as the packaging. Which is why he turned to the people to decide the new party’s name. He didn’t want to make things too complicated: Berlusconi fans tend to be bears of rather little brain (or people who stand to gain). He kept the choice simple: People for Freedom or Party for Freedom. Both have the same acronym (PdL), so he can get to work on the pencils and flags right away. In the meantime, it was out with the gazebos. And the phone lines (€1.88 plus VAT). And the lies about turn-out.
And would you believe it? The name Berlusconi wanted to win came up trumps. Bless.