Nicholas Farrell Nicholas Farrell

Five-star fantasy

Rome’s probable next mayor is being remarkably coy about the odd people behind her

Tom Cruise is an exceptionally beautiful American man with an invincible smile, but he is a member of a cult called Scientology. Virginia Raggi is an exceptionally beautiful Italian woman with an invincible smile but she is a member of a cult called the MoVimento Cinque Stelle (M5S). I understand the attraction of cults in a world in which God has disappeared and our lives are so boringly bad and our political systems worse. But I have yet to come across a cult that does not engender disastrous mental problems.

Last Sunday, the radiant Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer with a small son and a big motorbike, easily won the most votes in the first round of the mayoral elections in Rome. She is expected to win the second ballot next Sunday. The only concrete policy she has been able or willing to reveal, as far as I can tell, is a desire to stamp out fare-dodging on buses. And people think poor Boris Johnson is a loser because he has no blueprint for Brexit. But who cares about the nitty-gritty of life on this earth? What counts — when it comes to cults at least — is faith.

‘It is only the first chapter,’ said Raggi, smiling invincibly at her press conference after the polls closed. ‘The wind is changing, gentlemen, the wind is changing.’ She made it seem, for a moment, as if Jesus himself was about to come to the Eternal City.

The capital ‘V’ in the word MoVimento stands for Vaffa (Fuck off) — to everything, more or less, except wind farms. The experts define this ‘movement’ (the word ‘party’ is verboten) as ‘anti-establishment’ but nobody really knows what that means. One thing can be said: though neither left-nor right-wing, the movement draws its support from the left, by and large, just as Fascism — founded by the revolutionary socialist Benito Mussolini — did.

Like everywhere else in Italy, Rome is up to its neck in corruption.

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