Coffee House

Weary Italian voters can teach UK politicians lessons

26 February 2013

9:32 AM

26 February 2013

9:32 AM

Italian voters are clearly cheesed off: with the Establishment, and with the country’s austerity programme. The explosion onto the scene of Beppe Grillo – which Freddy examined in his post from Rome on Sunday – shows quite how cheesed off they are, and it also has wider lessons for the eurozone and for UK politics, too.

The first is that voters clearly do not share eurozone leaders’ unswerving commitment to the euro project: Grillo made much of his party’s eurosceptic credentials and won 54 seats in the upper house, with Berlusconi’s centre-right on 116, while Mario Monti, the conduit for the EU’s austerity measures, won only 18. No alliance gained the 158 seats needed for a majority in the Senate. Though austerity is inevitable for Italy, its voters are wearied of it and of Europe. Mario Draghi said last summer that European leaders would do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect the euro and eurozone countries: Italian voters, at least, don’t feel quite so energised about that.


There are lessons for UK politicians, too. Allister Heath argues in his City AM column today that Italian voters were showing their disgust with the Establishment in general, and as he points out, our Establishment in this country is hardly garnering more trust currently. The rise of the protest vote isn’t just confined to a party led by a comedian with a manslaughter conviction campaigning against corruption in Italy: in this country we have UKIP, which is managing to bleed support from all the major parties as voters grow grumpy with their promises and failures.

But there is another thing our politicians should mull over from today’s ‘Italian voters reject austerity’ headlines. While our own situation is quite clearly different, there is growing unease at the ‘rhetoric of austerity’, even when, as Fraser explained a month ago, the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality. George Osborne is cutting total spending by 3.2 per cent over four years, but if you spend a couple of hours in the House of Commons Chamber, you might be forgiven for thinking that he’s slashed it in half. Tory backbenchers such as Philip Davies are now talking about the need for ‘proper spending cuts’, as though they haven’t happened yet, when the prevailing narrative is that they have. It could be that at the next election the Conservatives are punished for talking about austerity rather than actually doing it, with their successors having to do the heavy lifting.

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  • peterjack12

    The British electorate is very different from the Italian electorate. We’ve made apathy a fine art.

  • Alexander Smithson

    Lets hope British finally realise the total destruction inflicted on the UK by the EUSSR

    Sign this petition to restrict Bulgarian and Romanians from entering the UK:

  • Eddie

    The Italians (and Spanish, Greeks and Irish etc etc) adored the EU when it was flinging free money at them, paid for by British and German taxes.
    Now they have to balance the books, they sulk – and before that they wanted to refuse entry to the EU of the central and eastern European states who – they knew full well – would get the financial help now, because they are poorer than any west European nation.
    Italy and other southern European countries are woefully corrupt – just like the EU itself. Italy has 70,000 chauffeured cars for its state officials; the UK has 300. Bureaucracy and jobs for like shuffling paper have because a mainstay of the economies from France southwards and eastwards (not to mention the massive croneyism and nepotism than exists in Italy – which leads to unqualified Italians being appointed university lecturers because they cousin is in the department, whereas British lecturers get paid less and can’t get decent full time jobs – as Italian academics do in the UK!).
    Time to face the music, Francois and Frederico! You gotta balance the books, non?

  • Walter Ellis

    If the British electorate (echoing the ambivalence of their Italian counterparts) give only 40 per cent backing to Labour at the next election, Ed Miliband will be Prime Minister with a comfortable majority in Parliament. Alternatively, by the same margin, they could have another five years of David Cameron, this time without Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. But … should the two big parties each get around 30 per cent of the vote, then Clegg, or his successor, will be needed to make up the numbers, meaning that nobody gets what they want (I discount Ukip as mere spoilers, though conceivably quite effective spoilers).

    If British voters really do want decisive government, one way or the other, they should vote in the appropriate numbers. They won’t, of course. They never do. There hasn’t been a British Government in my lifetime that was backed by a clear majority of the electorate. So on we go, muddling through and bitching about it, as though it was anybody’s fault but our own.

    Next time round, the Tories and Ukip could, between them, garner 40 per cent or more of the popular vote. Could they coalesce? I doubt it. So it’s more likely that we’ll get Labour, in tandem with the Lib Dems. That’s what I’d like to see, but if it happens, who will the Faragistas blame? And how will they feel about their “lost” referendum?

    • Tom Tom

      40% ? Stop looking at Opinion Polls….40% Abstain. Labour might get 32% and Tories 26% but 40% of Voters never – of votes cast not likely


    EVERY IMF program before DSK bounced them into EZ ones was austerity + devaluation + default – you won’t get growth from business investment (no demand) consumer (job loss, lower wages,higher taxes /fear- won’t spend) or govt (have to reduce spending to bring debt/deficit under control) – only one of 4 sources left – NET TRADE – devalue to boost exports & tourism and reduce imports.
    P I G S – PAIN without devaluation to provide GAIN – debt/GDP ratio WORSE – contracted economy with austerity only.
    DEBT/deflation trap identified by I. Fisher in NINETY-THIRTY-THREE
    If ignore simple economic theory (including criteria for ‘optimal currency area’) and keep repeating in Pavlovian style ‘we must save Euro’ you will produce a 25 % GDP fall Greece – DEPRESSION – & boost extremists (G Dawn on 13 % from 6 in 6 months) & place a society under unbearable stress – eg attack (YOUTUBE) by GD members on illegal immigrant holding centre in Patras.
    IMF produced research – rule of thumb was that if reduce deficit by 1% you will reduce GDP by 1/2 – found for simultaneous tightenings in PIGS the figure was 2 – i.e. make matters worse not better.
    Evans-Pritchard said in Tele that 2008 crisis was outcome of failure of entire generation of political & economic leaders. Yet for Euro just had to read historian/anthropologist E-P and do what he prescribed from 1999 – NO PROBELM.

    • berosos_bubos

      Why not just cut state and cut taxes to create demand ?

      • Tom Tom

        Why not cut of cheap funding to Banks and create new Banks ?

  • Smithersjones2013

    I really am getting sick of the damn filter on this site blocking perfectly reasonable posts (no swearing, no abuse, no naughty words)! Clearly the Spectator has abandoned the concept of freedom of speech……

  • @PhilKean1

    UK politicians are ALSO comedians

    But all we ever get are bad jokes and custard pies in our faces.

  • @PhilKean1

    Their successors will be Labour – hopefully, without needing support from Clegg’s Liberals

    Yes, this is bad. And we are on course for 5 more years of political incompetence and mismanagement.

    But this HAS to happen. It is now certain that a dreadful mistake was made back in 2005, when normally sensible Conservatives elected a naive, inexperienced and weak David Cameron as their leader.
    The consequences of that dreadful mistake are likely to be highlighted in Eastleigh, when ex-Conservatives switch to UKIP to ENSURE that Cameron loses an election that should have been a walk-over for him.

    The result at Eastleigh, if ex-Conservatives do ensure Cameron’s defeat, will be replicated in Tory areas all over the south of England in 2015. This is now certain.

    But it will mean that Cameron will be removed as leader, his party will be disinfected of Liberals-posing-as-Tories and they will be in a position to win a majority at the 2020 election.

    I can see no other way the next 7 years unfolds.

    • Colonel Mustard

      A queer strategy that, to ensure that a Conservative leader who palely imitates Labour is removed just to establish a real Labour government that will exceed in malevolence and culturally revolutionary policies anything seen from 1997 to 2010.

      Whilst Cameron gets a beating, arguably deserved, the real criminal gang escape scrutiny and punishment altogether, but instead are rewarded with power.


      • @PhilKean1

        How long do you want British politicians, of all the 3 main parties, to continue taking us 1 step forward, and 2 steps back?

        When do you think time should be called in order to force an end to the abuse of the British political process?

        • Colonel Mustard

          I know that crippling one of the three main parties – e.g. the Conservatives – will just strengthen the other two. And those two parties in combination are far more dangerous.

          Your strategy will only work if all 3 main parties are damaged. They won’t be.

          “Calling time” on all 3 parties is quite different from giving power to Labour which is exactly what you will do. That will open up all sorts of other nasties which will make your “strategy” even less likely to succeed. Reluctantly I’ve come to the conclusion that UKIP are Labour’s strongest ally.

          Do I want a change of Conservative leadership and direction? Yes. But I don’t want another Labour government. And I know which is more important.

          • @PhilKean1

            We will have to suffer a minimum of 5 years in order to repair the Conservative party and return it to its core purpose.

            You can’t possibly want to bury your head in-the-sand and watch Britain continue to decline under the stewardship of this dreadful bunch we have in now?

            Suffer the pain with Labour, whilst watching the good that is done in the Conservative Party. The British people deserve to have a decent Tory party to vote for.

            • WatTylersGhost

              “Repair the Conservative Party” – I prefer to see it buried. Do not give any of these failures the excuse to carry on. We need a new political system with new parties.

              • Colonel Mustard

                But what you will get is a one-party state run by Labour.

                • Tom Tom

                  We had that for 13 years because the Conservatives were a DISASTER and capped that with a New Leader who could not even beat Gordon Brown. In short Conservatives have not managed to win an election since 1992

                • Andy

                  No they haven’t won an election since 1992. But what do you expect ?? In 2005 the Conservatives gained 32.4% of the vote and 198 seats. In 2010 Labour gained 29% of the vote and 258 seats. Therein lies the problem. The whole electoral system is gerrymandered for Labour.

                • Vulture

                  True, but even without that the Cameron Conservatives couldn’t win.

                  There are whole areas of the UK where the pale pink Tories are now electoral poison: basically they can only survive in the south and bits of the rural Midlands and north. Not a national party any more.

                  UKIP has the makings of a new movement that will appeal to those utterly disillusioned with LibLabCon and who want their country back from this near criminal conspiracy.

                  They won’t go away and the initial goal is to remove Cameron. Win or lose, Eastleigh will help that process along nicely.

                • berosos_bubos

                  The I.M.F. will do the job that should have been done since 2010

              • David B

                But that is like asking someone for directions and getting the answer that it would be best not to start from here. We are where we are and we need to improve what we have got. Trying to start form a different location will only take u in the wrong dirdction

            • Colonel Mustard

              You’ll suffer more than 5 years. Labour’s medicine this time will be terminal and you can kiss goodbye to any hope of real democracy, any real plurality or diversity in politics and any real chance of escaping the tentacles of the socialist EU.

              5 more years of authoritarian, anti-freedom of speech legislation, 5 more years of political correctness, with broadening definitions of “hate speech”. 5 more years of brainwashing in education.

            • David B

              Suffer 5 years of MiliE and Balls, I think the patient (the UK) will be dead.

        • greggf

          Time will be called when the £ sinks far enough to ruin the middle classes, denude tax revenue of its value and scapegoats are named.
          In the meantime muddling through will continue.

    • peterjack12

      2020! God knows what the country will be like by then!

  • CaediteEos

    I think the only way we’ll ever get proper spending cuts is for Labour to come in, bribe its voters with huge amounts more debt-fuelled spending and trash the economy even more. Then maybe, just maybe, people will see the need for real cuts. Might be a bit late then though.

    • Tom Tom

      So far it seems the Conservatives have bribed their supporters with huge amounts of QE, tax cuts, and directed taxpayer money towards owners of windfarms, utilities and water companies which have ingenious tax ploys in the Channel Islands. That Osborne is increasing public spending and hosing credit into the banking system must be so rewarding for Banker Bonuses that it is surprising there are mass protests at attempts by the EU Parliament to cap Banker Bonuses……but perhaps the £21 million pot at Centrica is the one the publics appreciate more

  • Tom Tom

    You say Comedian others say Satirist. He has a Commercial Degree and can read Balance Sheets and is financially aware. He was excluded from MSM and had to build a Blog Presence and that is the core of his political movement. He has become like The Pirate Party – Internet-based and representing Sans-Culottes. The smug complacency of BBC, Sky and Print Media thinking they have it sewn up is putrefying in Britain

  • anyfool

    It could be that at the next election the Conservatives are punished for talking about austerity rather than actually doing it, with their successors having to do the heavy lifting.

    Rather a poor ending, who but the Conservative Party would want to do the heavy lifting, if the Tories lose the next election, can you in any way imagine that Labour would be able to do so, even if the leadership had a Damascene conversion to something resembling financial sanity, do you think that the morons who would make up the bulk of their MPs would let them.

    The so called Gnomes of Zurich would not be able nor would they want to rescue the country this time, the make up of the country has changed dramatically, forty years ago the financial world instinctively trusted the UK government, why would they do that now when another Labour government would seemingly go on to try the failed methods of the last one..

    • Tom Tom

      There are no Gnomes of Zurich now that London has no exchange controls. All they have is Private Wealth Accounts for Goldman Sachs to do Insider Deals on hEinz Shares

      • Count Dooku

        Please be factually accurate. The Heinz deal was done through a brokerage account at Goldman. You are spreading potentially libellous information.

        • Tom Tom

          To be factually accurate I shall reproduce the Reuters Report: “(Reuters) – A Goldman Sachs private wealth client is the holder of the Swiss account at the center of an investigation into insider trading in H.J. Heinz Cooptions, regulators said in a court filing late Wednesday.

          The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against unknown traders last week, alleging they used a Goldman account in Zurich to buy an unusual amount of Heinz options the day before the ketchup maker agreed to sell itself for $23 billion.

          In an SEC application to freeze the defendants’ assets, dated February 15 but filed with the court Wednesday, staff attorney David Brown said the commission had been told by Goldman that “the account holder is a Goldman Sachs Private Wealth client in Switzerland.”