X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House

Why I love Beppe Grillo

28 February 2013

12:54 PM

28 February 2013

12:54 PM

‘Crazy Italians!’ you might think.  Offered the choice between Bunga Bunga Berlusconi, an ex-Communist and a Brussels stooge, one in four of them went and voted for a stand up comedian.

Ever since Beppe Grillo’s shock success in the Italian elections, serious pundits in the mainstream media have been inviting us to disapprove. We are supposed to roll our eyes at the idea that Italians seem unwilling to accept austerity.  We are meant to tut tut at the failure of their democracy to produce a stable administration willing to take instruction from the Eurosystem.

This only goes to show, imply the poobahs and the pundits, that Italian democracy is in crisis. Nonsense.  What happened in Italy shows that politics is – thanks to the internet – being reborn.

Politics in the West, I speculate in my book on iDemocracy published last year, is going to be ‘shaped by groups of like-minded people, mobilising online’.  The internet will allow new entrants to emerge rapidly and win a large share of the political market.  Four months later, Italian blogger Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement came from nowhere to win over a quarter of the popular vote.

Merely attributing Grillo’s success to austerity and anti-politics tells us little.  There has been a strong anti-politician sentiment in Italy for years.  Those of us who have lived there know that strikes against government cut backs have been a regular feature of life in Italy for as long as anyone can remember.

[Alt-Text]


No, the real game changer is the internet.  It means that ordinary folk can do something about it all.

Before we had blogs and twitter, it was the job of established political parties to aggregate opinion and votes.  The internet means that opinion and votes can now be aggregated online.  In fact, the Five Star Movement seems to have done a better job doing so than the big corporate parties, for example allowing every Italian to help select its candidates by voting online.

In Italy, like in this country, politicians once had to communicate with the voters entirely thorough the media.  That tended to favour the two (and a half) party system, acting as a barrier to new entrants.

Not any more.  The digital revolution means that ‘what politicians say will no longer be assessed through pundits … but gauged by the crowds online’.  Thanks to the internet, it is now possible to create a political brand, without massive amounts of money.

Sure enough, Beppe Grillo – whose party refuses to accept state funding for political parties – tends not to give mainstream media interviews, yet talks directly to an audience of millions on his blog.

‘But Beppe Grillo is mad!’ I hear you say.  ‘He wants … um … a referendum on the euro.  An end to bank bailouts.  More local decision making. Less government.’

Is that really so daft?  It sounds a lot more sane than those who insist that ordinary Italians must pay the price to rescue greedy bankers from their own euro follies.  The citizen consumer class in Italy seems to agree.

Beppe Grillo might not be around in Italian politics in a few years. But the internet, and the profound changes that it is starting to bring to the way that we organise politics and society, has only just got started.

Douglas Carswell’s book on The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy was published by Biteback in October 2012.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close