Curious this. Led by one Umberto Bossi, the nationalistic Northern League – Lega Nord – party has earned something of a reputation for being somewhat xenophobic and racist, but maybe this reputation is not well deserved.
Lega Nord, which is ‘Northern League’ in English, is an Italian political party, well established in the northern regions of Italy. This party made some gains in recent elections in Italy.
Leader Umberto Bossi is known to be not a great fan of Italy’s recalcitrant, mischievous south. Nor is Bossi’s party too happy about the numbers of illegal immigrants which have invaded Italy. As well as Italy’s south and illegal immigrants, Bossi’s Lega Nord group is not overly happy with that very much southern Italian phenomenon, the mafia, which it seems to regard as something that does not do Italy many favours.
He could be right, for one of the first things which springs to the minds of many non-Italians when Italy comes up in conversation is Italy’s shady criminal organisation.
Bossi’s number two, Roberto Maroni has taken a tough approach to Italy’s mafia problem. And Bossi’s hard line stance on illegal immigration has led to boat people from Africa being turned back, and this and other purportedly anti-immigration stances taken by his Northern League party, combined with the actions of certain other members of the Northern League, have led to accusations that the party is both xenophobic and racist. I have jumped on this boat before, and have dismissed Lega Nord as being a bunch of extreme right wing nationalists, about one bus stop away from fascism. Now though, I’m not so sure.
A winning Northern League candidate in Italy’s combined European and administrative elections was one Sandy Cane. Not the most Italian of names is ‘Sandy’, even if her surname could possibly be read in the same way as the Italian for dog. Instead, Ms Cane’s surname is pronounced in the same way as ‘Kane’, as in the famous citizen.
But it’s not just the fact that Ms Cane does not have an Italian name which may come as a surprise. Oh no.
African American Mayor in Northern Italy
What is really surprising is that Umberto Bossi‘s Northern League is party actually fielded a candidate of African American origin. Even more surprising is that Sandy Cane won!
Thus the newly elected mayor of Viggiù, Ms Cane, has become about as close an equivalent to Barack Obama as Italy can get. For those who do not know, which included me, Viggiù is in the province of Varese to the north west of Milan. In other words, right slap bang in the heartland of Northern League territory.
Sorry, but my claim she is the Italian equivalent of Obama is by no means original. Italy’s papers have already hailed her as such.
Italy’s Lega Nord is Not Racist
This evening Ms Cane was interviewed briefly on the Italian RAI 2 news.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
She stated that she supported the Northern League because the party stood for ‘respect for the law’, which is something Italians in general have never been that good at. Then, and this is one thing which really calls into question whether the Northern League are really a racist bunch – she added that she also wants to help crack down on illegal immigration.
The Northern League apparently, and according to Ms Cane herself, ‘welcomed her with open arms’, and she says whoever claims that the Northern League is a racist organisation has got things all wrong.
Sandy Cane also happens to be a fan of Barack Obama, as one might have expected.
Happy in Italy
Happily resident in Viggiù for some 38 years, Sandy Cane was born in Springfield Massachusetts in the USA in 1961. Her father was African-American, with her mother being from Viggiù.
Viggiù’s new Barack Obama intends to help her beloved town to a rosier future through the promotion of tourism and a focus on the area’s rich culture. Sounds good.
Italy’s Lega Nord in a New Light
I am looking at the Northern League with new eyes. Admittedly, I’ve been seeing the Northern League in a new light ever since I heard how hard Northern League member and Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who is also from Varese incidentally, has been clamping down on Italy’s mafia problem (see the final section – Credit to the Berlusconi Government). And he’s been getting excellent results.
Bossi Bosses Silvo Berlusconi Around, sometimes!
Umberto Bossi is also a Berlusconi ally who seems to be able, to an extent, to keep limelight loving Silvio Berlusconi in check.
Although Berlusconi has his faults, and whether you love or hate the man, he does seem to be the most charismatic leader Italy has had in years. Silvio Berlusconi, when he’s not up to his party tricks, is also rather good at keeping his governments in power too. This means that change is happening in Italy, as are some actual reforms. Bossi tends to remind Berlusconi that in amongst the funny little DIY laws, a few genuine reforms might not go amiss.
Some of these changes are for the best, others are not so good. As an example of the not so good, there is an anti-phone tapping bill, which is likely to go through the Italian parliament tomorrow. Such legislation may help certain Italians from having to bother so much with annoying things like transparency, meaning that corruption may grow unchecked in Italy. Bossi, one imagines, is probably not overly happy with such legislation, seeing as his party stands for respecting laws.
Northern League plus Italian Values?
Here is a mischievous suggestion. Would the Northern League leader, Umberto Bossi, consider getting together with the leader of Italy’s other reform minded party, Antonio Di Pietro of the Italian Values party? Probably not, even if by combining forces, these two parties might make a real, positive difference to Italy.
A Viggiù (Varese) eletto sindaco della Lega di colore – Elected at Viggiù (Varese) a coloured Northern League Mayor – Il Sole 24 ORE – in Italian
Sandy Cane: Italy’s First Black Mayor Belongs To Anti-Immigration Party – An article about the same subject on Huffington Post. Sandy Cane is attracting some worldwide attention.