John Laughland

Meet Italy’s answer to Boris

Gianni Alemanno, Rome’s new right-wing mayor, tells John Laughland that it’s time for the Eternal City to adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ approach

Gianni Alemanno, Rome’s new right-wing mayor, tells John Laughland that it’s time for the Eternal City to adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ approach

There are few people, I imagine, who could make Boris Johnson jealous, but Gianni Alemanno is probably one of them. Two days before Boris’s election as Mayor of London, the conservative Alemanno conquered Rome after the Italian Left had held the city for a decade and a half. His victory was part of a dramatic overall national victory for the Italian Right, whose no-nonsense political discourse may now set the tone for European politics as a whole.

While Boris governs London from a hideous blob of glass and steel, Alemanno reigns over the Eternal City from an exquisite palace on the Capitoline hill. The square outside was laid out by Michelangelo around the great equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius — it says SPQR in huge letters on the doormat; inside the City Hall there are carved Roman bathtubs and statues of Romulus and Remus (and plenty of Madonnas and crucifixes). In the council chamber itself, glowering down from the wall behind the Speaker’s chair, stands a enormous statue of Julius Caesar, just yards from the spot where he was stabbed to death in one of the earliest regime-change operations in human history. If anyone would appreciate or envy the profound historical resonance of this place, it is surely Boris — the enthusiastic classicist and architect of a noted TV series on Ancient Rome.

But the new Mayor does not look happy. Alemanno’s brow is furrowed; he does not smile; he is tense, late and very busy. Slight and wiry, no doubt because of the mountain climbing which is his passion, Alemanno has conquered one of the great peaks of Italian politics only to find that he has ascended a pile of rubble.

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