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A Voyage into the Wonderful World of Italian Politics

Battleship Fires off one of many Broadsides at its Critics

Despite the golden opportunity presented by the latest in a long line of scandals regarding Italy’s right wing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s left has failed to depose Italy’s controversial leader.

One reason for this is that it is uncertain as to who exactly runs Italy’s left of centre Democratic Party – the PD.

Generally, it is clear who captains which political parties in Italy, as you will discover from this nautically flavoured voyage into the world of Italian politics, from which you might be able to understand how well the good ship Italy is commanded.

I’ll kick off with the battleship.

Dubious Hull Integrity and List

As if you had not guessed, the battleship refers to the People of Freedom or PdL party which is run by the beleaguered Silvio Berlusconi. While the hull of the Berlusconi battleship lacks a little integrity, lists increasingly towards extreme starboard, and has suffered a mutiny, this political craft is still a formidable vessel, and Admiral Berlusconi enjoys the support of most of his crew.

Pugnacious Commander Ignazio la Russa commands the Berlusconi battleship’s marine corps and keeps his troops ready to defend his ship from others which dare to venture too close.

Battleship Fires off one of many Broadsides at its Critics
Battleship fires off one of many broadsides at its enemies

Also aboard Battleship Berlusconi is Entertainment Officer Michela Vittoria Brambilla who busies herself ensuring the crew stay loyal to their admiral. Officer Brambilla regularly runs recruiting campaigns, organises tours of duty, and sets up the odd party.  Nicole Minetti, on secondment from the good ship Lombardy acts as the ship’s Social Liaison officer.

Officer Minetti has reputedly organised the odd party or two to help Admiral Berlusconi let off steam. Invited to these parties, or so the story goes, was a belly dancer of Moroccan origins who goes by the name of Ruby. Despite rumours to the contrary, Admiral Berlusconi maintains that everything which has gone on during his parties on board has been above board.

Communications and Propaganda Chief Gianni Letta ensures that Battleship Berlusconi broadcasts the right messages at the right time using an armoury full of electronic weapons of mass distraction. Through clever communications tactics, Admiral Berlusconi seems to be able to convince Italy’s voters he knows where he is going. When too many questions are asked though, the mighty battleship lays down an impenetrable smoke screen ably created by Engineer and Ship’s Bursar Tremonti.

Below decks, lurks crew member Nicolo Ghedini, Battleship Berlusconi’s tactical defence specialist. The skeletal Ghedini also furnishes Chief Letta with reams of disinformation leaflets to drop from the ship’s chopper. This helicopter is piloted by Flight-Officer Maurizio Gasparri, a staunch and loyal member of Admiral Berlusconi’s crew.

Rumour has it that Battleship Berlusconi was constructed down in a shipyard in Sicily back in the mid-90s, and it is suspected that a few of the major components of the great ship may be of dubious origins. Missiles for the warship were kindly supplied by a close Russian friend of the admiral.

To everyone in Italy it is clear who commands aboard this listing battleship – Silvio Berlusconi.

Mutiny Aboard the Battleship

The Berlusconi battleship did suffer some damage when Rear-Admiral Gianfranco Fini sparked a mutiny and managed to take control of a small frigate, but after holing the battleship with his ship’s guns, Fini’s craft hit a mud bank.

To this day, Fini has been finding it difficult to extricate his craft from the mud. To make matters worse, Battleship Berlusconi continues to fire broadsides at the traitorous Fini, causing him to lose a lot of credibility in the eyes of his crew – some of whom have jumped back on board the Berlusconi boat.

In spite of his problems, it is clear to Italians that Gianfranco Fini runs the FLI splinter battle group which opposes Silvio Berlusconi, even if it is not entirely obvious who the members of the FLI group are and what they stand for.

Italy’s voters might consider voting for Fini, but only if he is able to restore his credibility.

Casini’s Mine Sweeper

The next ship sailing the political sea in Italy is a small mine sweeper captained by one Pier Ferdinando Casini who runs a party called the UDC which leans to port or starboard depending upon which way the political wind is blowing. Technically, Casini’s political boat rocks towards the centre and is known for being Vatican friendly too.

Casini is clearly the captain of his craft and few would doubt this, even if nobody is sure what Casini’s party wants to achieve. Still, Italians who like the Vatican but are not too keen on Berlusconi or the left are likely to vote for Casini.

Di Pietro’s Assault Craft

Next up, there is the inflatable assault craft which is run by Commandant Antonio di Pietro who runs the Italian Values party or IDV in Italian. Di Pietro is forever raking the Berlusconi battleship with small arms fire.

Di Pietro is famous for his straight talking, if not for his oratory skills, and his strafing of the Berlusconi ship has weakened small patches and damaged the reputation of Admiral Berlusconi.

Despite Di Pietro’s limited political fire power, it is striking clear that he commands aboard his little boat. More Italians would vote for Di Pietro if he were a little more articulate.

Bossi’s Torpedo Boat

After Commandant Di Pietro, we have the somewhat doddery Captain Umberto Bossi whose buzzy little torpedo boat is always on the move. This often noisy green painted craft launches a few rubber tipped torpedoes at the Berlusconi battleship from time to time just to let Admiral Berlusconi know the boat is there and potentially dangerous. These rubber tips will be removed and replaced with live warheads in the event that Admiral Berlusconi does not keep to the fiscal federalism course.

Even if Bossi’s craft belongs to the Berlusconi battle group, Captain Bossi may well turn on the Admiral and Bossi’s torpedoes are capable of sinking the Berlusconi battleship. Still, despite Bossi’s flickering loyalty to his Admiral, Italians know Bossi is the captain of the Northern League – or Lega Nord, as it is known in Italian. If Bossi should succumb to illness, then his torpedo boat would have problems finding a new captain and may even run aground.

Assisting Capt’n Bossi are the two Bobs: First Officer Roberto Maroni – who oversees the torpedo boat’s anti-illegal immigration and smuggling duties, and First Mate Roberto Calderoli, who tries to keep the running of the torpedo boat as simple as possible. Sometimes though, Calderoli  gets things a little mixed up. Captain Bossi was rather taken aback one fine day when he discovered to his abject horror that the ships anti-aircraft guns had been removed by Calderoli in an attempt to simplify the operation of the boat.

Suitably scolded by his esteemed leader, First Mate Calderoli, fortified by a few glasses of good grappa, re-mounted the missing guns late in the evening one cold winter weekend.

Bossi’s supporters come from Italy’s north in the main, hate Italy’s south, and want Italy to be split into two sections.

The Democratic Party’s Pleasure Craft

Now we come to Italy’s PD – Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a little strapped for cash and cannot afford a warship, so it has to make do with an ageing 45 metre pleasure craft, which badly needs a coat of paint. This boat, while comfortable enough, is a little cramped. The skipper is one Pier Luigi Bersani – at least that is who is listed as skipper on official documents, and he heads the PD boat, possibly.

Skipper Bersani is not, perhaps, the greatest navigator in the world and the rudder of his craft seems to have been malfunctioning somewhat, making his course decidedly unclear for many Italians.

The Massimo Skipper

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Actually, Italians suspect that the real skipper of the PD pleasure craft may be a certain Massimo D’Alema, who ascended to the position of Admiral for a brief period.

D’Alema’s battleship, which he commanded from October 1998 to April 2000, was a rather rickety affair which needed a thorough refitting.  The craft began taking on water rather quickly as soon as it got under way, only for it to be definitively sunk during that virtually annual Italian naval battle which goes by the name of general elections.

D’Alema, though, is a keen sailor and probably still believes he can rise to the position of Admiral once more. It is rumoured that ex-admiral D’Alema still calls the shots on the Democratic Party’s craft, and he is often to be found trying to tug the tiller from the hands of skipper Bersani. D’Alema has launched a few empty bottles of rum at Battleship Berlusconi, but they have bounced off.

The First Officers

Poor Skipper Bersani really has his hands full. He has two first officers.  One of whom, Walter Veltroni, once skippered the Democratic Party pleasure craft, but was ousted when he failed to point the boat in any real direction. Veltroni still likes to be considered as a serious navigator and would take Bersani’s place at the drop of a Captain’s hat.

The other first officer, who is really the first mate, is Dario Franceschini. Franceschini also attempted to take control of the party pleasure craft, but he too found it difficult to convince his crew that he was any better at charting the course of the boat than Veltroni and was summarily demoted.  Despite the demotion, Franceschini likes stand on deck and raise his voice from time to time so that people won’t forget him. This adds to the confusion of Italy’s voters as to who commands aboard the PD party pleasure craft.

By the Pool

On the deck of the Democratic Party pleasure craft, usually hovering around near the bar, and always impeccably dressed, is Petty Officer Francesco Rutelli. Rutelli almost made it to skipper once, but despite brushing up the image of the craft, he ended up feeding the skipper the wrong coordinates which resulted in the boat sailing around in ever decreasing circles.

Rutelli harbours ambitions of wresting the helm from Bersani or D’Alema, but he’s not really astute enough to achieve this, nor does he seem capable of plotting a suitable course for the craft.

Some people in Italy still wonder whether Rutelli might be the true skipper of the PD boat.

In the Bowels

Deep down in the engine room of the Democratic Party boat can be found Engineer Pietro Franco “Piero” Fassino.

This old sea dog has been travelling Italy’s political sea for many a year and has ended up in the odd storm or two as well. Some suspect he’s been eyeing up the position of skipper for a good few years, and he pops up on deck and plays with the tiller from time to time, usually when Bersani and D’Alema are away on shore leave. He’s also been known to drop a spanner in the works. This has caused the party craft to slow down to a virtual stop on occasion.

Despite this, Fassino comes across as a sort of sleeping leader – who is possibly even more powerful than D’Alema.

So Who Runs the PD Boat?

Italians find it difficult to understand just who really runs the PD boat, and in the event of a general election would be uncertain as to who they would be voting for. To further complicate matters, it is also unclear what the PD crew stand for too.

Further Confusion

To add to the maelstrom, amongst the crew on the PD pleasure craft from time to time, can be found Midshipman Matteo Renzi. At present Renzi helps command a small but attractive tugboat called Florence. Renzi, however, dreams of commanding his very own battleship – if he can ever reach the bridge.

Renzi has also been known to consort with the enemy, and has dined aboard Battleship Berlusconi, and this has raised questions as to Renzi’s loyalty. The ambitious Renzi might be prepared to join Admiral Berlusconi’s crew, if he were to be offered the right position. Italians may have become a little suspicious of the route which Renzi is charting out for himself, and some Italians wonder whether he might end up steering his craft starboard instead of towards the port side.

Below decks there is the Debora Serracchiani, who runs the PD boat’s galley. When not cooking for the crew, she sits in her cabin plotting how to take control of the tiller. Alas, though, the other crew members are aware of Serracchiani’s plans, and do their level best to keep her out of sight and out of mind. She is occasionally allowed on deck during special occasions and when the boat requires painting. Some Italians wonder whether Serracchiani might make a good captain or admiral, but the rest of the PD boat crew is determined not to let them find out.

In the Doldrums

While the other boats in the Italian political sea manage to get close enough to fire shots at and across the bows of Battleship Berlusconi, the PD pleasure craft has been spending too much time sailing aimlessly around in the doldrums.

From time to time the crew of the PD craft, through luck rather than judgement, manage to steer a course towards the Berlusconi battleship and graze the side of the dominant vessel, but that’s about it. As for sinking the Berlusconi battleship, forget it. The PD craft is without arms.

Recently, and despite numerous fires in the hold aboard the Berlusconi battleship, the PD craft has failed to even get close enough to hurl drums of oil into the flames and cause the Berlusconi ship to explode and sink to the bottom of Italy’s confusing political sea.

The PD craft needs an upgrade, and a change of crew, if it is to stand any hope of doing some real damage to Admiral Berlusconi’s battleship.

The Psychedelic Little Red Submarine

As observed by sharp eyed reader Heath, shadowing the PD pleasure craft to the port side, a psychedelic little red submarine can sometimes be spotted, the periscope of which often peeks above the waves. Commanding this fetchingly colourful little sub is one Nichi Vendola, and this submariner is quietly waiting for an opportunity to board the PD boat and take over as skipper.

The crew of the PD pleasure boat are aware of the pesky little sub, but cannot agree upon what to do about it.

A few Italians believe Vendola may actually board the PD boat one day and become its new skipper, but they worry about his origins and whether he might have the boat steering towards the extreme port, seeing as he was once part of the crew of the commie gunboat. This means they would be uncertain whether to vote for him, even he has made the good ship Apulia a more sprightly, better performing vessel. Some suspect Vendola has had clandestine dealings with the Berlusconi Battleship too.

It is vaguely possible that submariner Vendola may acquire his very own warship and use it to both sink the ailing PD craft and to attack the all-conquering Berlusconi Battleship.

Other Boats in Italy

Chugging along in an old 19th century steamboat are Italy’s radicals, but their old boat is starting to run out of coal and is so slow it doesn’t even stand a chance of getting close enough to even graze the hull of the great Berlusconi boat. The radicals have a leader, I think, but I can’t for the life of me remember his or her name. Neither can the majority Italy’s voters, one suspects.

Italy’s greens have a high-tech solar power craft, but it now spends most of its time stuck in a dry dock, ever since Italians realised that the green paint which adorned the craft was not as environmentally friendly as it was made out to be.

Once upon a time in Italy the communists had a gunboat, but this was sunk by a tidal wave of apathy, and is unlikely to ever be re-floated. Submariner Nichi Vendola is an ex-member of the now defunct boat’s crew.

There are some other little boats bobbing around on the Italian political sea. Most of these are smelly old fishing boats and trawlers which sail around aimlessly occasionally furnishing the bigger boats and the Berlusconi Battleship with a few fish.

For the moment though, Battleship Berlusconi rules the waves. Though nobody is quite sure how long this will last.

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