• Not so magnifico
Sir: To identify Silvio Berlusconi as Italy’s ‘best hope of cutting its astronomical sovereign debt’, as Nicholas Farrell does (‘Arrivederci il Magnifico,’ 12 November), would be laughable, if it didn’t show such deep ignorance of the damage Berlusconi’s rule has done economically, politically and morally. Mr Farrell suggests that Berlusconi is some kind of Thatcherite. Really? Could he point to any substantial reforms? Berlusconi promised to lower taxes, to reduce crime and to free up the labour market, but he did none of those things. His one major intervention in the economy was to scuttle a deal that would have seen Air France purchase Alitalia and hand over the ailing national airline in a sweetheart deal to some of his corporate buddies. He added to Italy’s astronomical debt by increasing public sector pensions. Under his rule, Italy grew at an anaemic annual rate of one third of 1 per cent and dropped further down league tables for economic freedom and competitiveness and media freedom. Under Berlusconi, we have seen a resurgence of the Mafia and increased public corruption. And we have seen 18 pieces of legislation passed that sought to protect his business interests and to provide him with legal immunity for wrongdoing. Quite a record.
Sir: Nicholas Farrell argues that ‘Berlusconi is the only person who could have sorted out Italy’s problems’. Well, he had several years in the job — was he too busy?
Sir: James Delingpole is half-right when he talks about Ukip being a breath away from overtaking the Lib Dems as Britain’s third party (12 November). As I write Ukip are on 7 per cent again in the polls with the Lib Dems on 8 per cent.