Article reproduced from L'Espresso
For someone who claims to want to emulate Britain’s Tony Blair, Matteo Renzi has made a strange start in national politics. When I interviewed him on camera for “Girlfriend in a Coma” he cited Blair as wisely saying he loved Labour Party traditions, except their tradition of always losing elections—but now Renzi has split his own PD by his sudden putsch against Enrico Letta. And as I wrote in L’Espresso in December last year, one of Blair’s key tactics was patience: he took three years to get full control of his party before winning the general election of 1997. President Renzi is not a patient man. So what should we think of Italy’s young, ambitious and impatient leader? Most of all, we should judge him by what his government actually achieves, so we will have to wait for that. Dreams and inspiring words about radicalism and revival are good and needed, but they will count for nothing without decisive actions.
As the Renzi government settles in for their first week in office, it is useful to remind ourselves what Matteo Renzi said in his interview with GIAC in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence back in February 2012. The crucial points to bear in mind from the interview as we judge him and his government are these: 1. He said he wants new, younger faces in institutions all over the country. His government, based as it is on the same coalition as that of Enrico Letta, still contains plenty of old faces. You can’t really get new faces without a new parliament and new elections. His next test will be in the hundreds of appointments his government will have to make in coming months to the top jobs in state-owned or state-controlled companies, and in combating what he calls Italy’s “terrible bureaucracy”.
Winston Churchill allegedly said that the terrible thing about committing political suicide is that you are still alive to watch the consequences. As the Partito Democratico attempts political suicide yet again, we observers are forced to conclude that either the PD has learned nothing from past suicides or it doesn’t care.
When Matteo Renzi was elected secretary-general of the party in December, it was 100% clear that the most crucial step for him would be to form an alliance with his party colleague, Enrico Letta, who happened to be occupying Palazzo Chigi. After barely two months, that alliance is now falling apart.
Occasionally, looking at Italian opinion polls, it has seemed surprising that both Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia seem to be retaining their share of the vote. Since every day’s news since the PD election has been dominated by Mayor Renzi, and since he is said to be Italy’s great young hope, this situation is not what one would expect. But it is easily explainable by two other facts: the failure of the Letta government to achieve any significant reforms; and the conflict under way inside the PD.
An obvious solution, one that has frequently been advocated by GIAC, is a new set of general elections. That is the only way to break the political stalemate that resulted from the February 2013 election, and thus to make government, and reforms, possible. But such elections should take place only once Parliament has passed a new electoral law.
BILL EMMOTTArticle reproduced from La Stampa
If you are an international investor, everything has changed in the world economy since 2014 began. If you are a young unemployed person in Italy, Britain or even America, or a family whose income has been unchanged or declining for the past five years, nothing has changed. The big question for 2014 is whether these two paths will converge.
For investors the change is dramatic, even if on reflection it should not be surprising. For unemployed youth and for ordinary families, however it is the lack of change that is disappointing. But for them the really big disappointment in many countries—especially Italy—is the apparent lack of action by government or politicians to do anything about it. If the Five Star Movement remains steady in the opinion polls and if anti-establishment parties like the Dutch Freedom Party, France’s Front National or the UK Independence Party prosper in May’s elections for the European Parliament, that will be the reason.
The change for investors ought, nevertheless, to bring some hope, at least for an eventual end to the disappointment. That hope is stronger in America and Britain than it is in Italy or the rest of the euro zone, but it could reach there too, ultimately. If, that is, events in Asia and in other emerging-economies do not block or destabilise it.
Annalisa and Bill's new Wake Up Foundation has become a gold donor to the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, which is the largest media event in Europe and where Girlfriend in a Coma was screened last April to a capacity crowd. A loss of local sponsorship had threatened the survival of this beacon of freedom of information and independent thought, leading the organisers (among whom Arianna Ciccone was GIAC's Italian of the Month in November) to set up a crowdfunding campaign to make up their shortfall. The Wake Up Foundation is delighted now to have supported that campaign, as has Bill too in his personal capacity.
BILL EMMOTTArticle reproduced from The Financial Times
Maurice Saatchi, the adman and Conservative peer, said that Tony Blair’s election victory in Britain in 1997 could be explained by his capture of a single word: new. That is also going to be the aim of Matteo Renzi, the Blair-admirer elected on Sunday by a landslide as the secretary-general of the Partito Democratico, Italy’s version of the Labour party. Whatever you think of Mr Blair, the election of the 38-year-old mayor of Florence is a rare moment of hope for Italy – and indeed for Europe.
What Italy, which has been the worst-performing economy among the Group of Seven rich countries for the past 15 years, has long needed has been four words beloved of Lord Saatchi’s advertising copywriters: new, young, change and hope.