Beppe grillo

Italy’s Five Star Movement and the triumph of digital populism

A couple of years back, while writing my book Radicals, I secured an interview with Beppe Grillo, leader of the Italian Five Star Movement. M5S (its Italian abbreviation) is the radical anti-establishment party that’s on track to top next week’s general election. We met in the restaurant of the hotel he always stays when in Rome. There was a small crowd outside as I walked in, hoping to get a glimpse of the man. Beppe wandered in late – he enjoys daily siestas – waving his smartphone. ‘This,’ he said, as he sat down, ‘this is what changes everything!’ Then something weird happened. Before I’d even pressed ‘record’, he picked

‘Fascist? No! I’m a federalist’

The man who could become Italy’s next prime minister is sat just opposite the entrance to the huge US and Nato airbase near Catania in Sicily at a hotel confiscated from the Mafia. It’s not Silvio Berlusconi, no matter how much the British press tells us that ‘Berlusconi is Back!’ Silvio Il Magnifico (as I call him) cannot be prime minister because he is banned from public office after his four-year jail sentence for tax fraud in 2012 (commuted to a year’s community service in an old people’s home). No, the man I’m talking to is Matteo Salvini, leader of Lega, the leading party on the right (15 per cent,

Europe’s year of insurgency

After the tumult of 2016, Europe could do with a year of calm. It won’t get one. Elections are to be held in four of the six founder members of the European project, and populist Eurosceptic forces are on the march in each one. There will be at least one regime change: François Hollande has accepted that he is too unpopular to run again as French president, and it will be a surprise if he is the only European leader to go. Others might cling on but find their grip on power weakened by populist success. The spectre of the financial crash still haunts European politics. Money was printed and

Did the ‘rise of populism’ really cost David Cameron his job?

When The Spectator was founded 188 years ago, it became part of what would now be described as a populist insurgency. An out-of-touch Westminster elite, we said, was speaking a different language to the rest of London, let alone the rest of the country. Too many ‘of the bons mots vented in the House of Commons appear stale and flat by the time they have travelled as far as Wellington Street’. This would be remedied, we argued, by extending the franchise and granting the vote to the emerging middle class. Our Tory critics said any step towards democracy — a word which then caused a shudder — would start a

Italy will soon be haunted by its inability to reform

Matteo Renzi has resigned from being Prime Minister of Italy but he has not resigned from the Democratic Party.  He has not done a David Cameron or David Miliband and left public life. This means that he will be back next year, and it also means that he will act as kingmaker in the coming days.  Right now, he will be working away behind the scenes to help organise the next coalition government that will soon be ushered in to pass the Budget law and to ensure the smooth passage of the banking bail out.   There is zero appetite among Democratic Party members or their junior coalition partners to call a general

Fraser Nelson

Beppe Grillo says he’s ready to govern after Renzi resigns

It started with a blog, and it could end up with a new Prime Minister. Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star movement, which wants Italy out of the Euro, has called for an election within a week – to pick up on the momentum which saw Matteo Renzi lose the referendum by a margin of almost 20 points, far bigger than that indicated by the polls. On his blog, he had this to say:- Hooray! Democracy won! The regime’s liars and its propaganda are the first losers in this referendum. Times have changed. Sovereignty belongs to the people, now we start to really apply our Constitution. The first winners are the citizens who raised their

Italy’s own populist revolution may be about to begin

Golden boy, Luigi Di Maio, is the 30-year-old, slickly dressed leader of the Parliamentary Italian Five Star Movement (M5S), Italy’s insurgent political party that is polling ahead of the incumbent Democrats with a smorgasbord of National Socialist-style policies, plucked from the manifestos of the left and right. And just like everyone else in M5S, Di Maio doesn’t like journalists.   This dislike of journalists is not merely the perfectly reasonable loathing that one develops towards the mainstream media (MSM) if one is a vegan, who doesn’t believe in vaccinations, but who does believe that airplane contrails are evidence of government-funded chemical spraying of the population (M5S member beliefs at one

Nigel Farage’s diary: How I survived Dry January

Dry January is tougher than it sounds. Well, for me anyway. It’s now been some 28 days since I’ve had a drink, and you should see what that means for my campaigning strategy. ‘Ginger beer? Lemonade?’ Pub-goers around the country can’t believe it when I walk in and whisper my order over the bar. The fact is they don’t believe I’m really doing it. ‘I’m not all spin and bluster like those other lads,’ I usually reply. ‘If I promise I’m going to do something, I’ll bloody well do it.’ Still, I can’t say it’s never going to tempt me again. Especially not given the week I’ve had. It all

Portrait of the week | 20 November 2014

Home David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said: ‘Red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy.’ He then offered £650 million to a ‘green climate fund’. In a speech in Singapore, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said that fines for banks over rigging foreign exchange rates showed that ‘it is simply untenable now to argue that the problem is one of a few bad apples. The issue is with the barrels in which they are stored.’ Official figures showed that the number of British Army reservists has been boosted by a recruitment drive in the past year from 19,290 to 19,310. Friends of the

A letter to Nigel Farage about Beppe Grillo

Nige, I write to warn you about a certain Italian with a big disturbing beard called Mister Beppe Grillo — your new friend who you met in Brussels on Wednesday. We are both, you and me, men of Kent. You Sevenoaks, me Westerham. We have much in common. You Dulwich College, me King’s Canterbury. We are both rebels because we both — despite being the wrong side of 50 – drink and smoke way too much — regardless. But, these days, I live in Italy. And you do not. So take it from me babe: leave well alone the Italian fried-air salesman Grillo who is an ‘ex’ communist and ‘ex’

Europe rose up in protest against the EU — here’s your guide to the new rebels

Daniel Hannan wrote in the Spectator earlier this year about the pirate parties of Europe I once shared a car to the airport with a French MEP, a member of the Front National (FN). He spoke that very correct French which, across the Channel, serves in place of accent as a social signifier. He casually mentioned that the Holocaust couldn’t have happened, at least not on the scale claimed: the volume of the ovens, he creepily explained, was insufficient. The European Parliament has always had its fair share of extremists, eccentrics and outright, drooling loons. With the FN then polling at 6 per cent, there seemed no need to treat any of its MEPs seriously,

Will 2014 be the year of the populist party?

With Ukip widely expected to win big in May’s elections, 2014 may well be the year of the populist party. Not easily categorised as left or right wing, populist parties across Europe pit the good, honest, ordinary voter against the out of touch, liberal, mainstream political elite. The populists claim to represent the former against the latter, an authentic and honest voice in a world of spin and self-interest. Nigel Farage is not the only one to be surfing the wave of widespread disillusionment, with politics in general and politicians in particular. In Italy, Beppe Grillo straddles both left and right. The popular comedian and blogger ran on a vehemently

What next for the anti-euro parties?

It’s not a surprise that since the eurozone crisis began, support for eurosceptic parties has risen across the European Union. But behind the noise from leaders such as Nigel Farage and Beppe Grillo, how much of an impact will they have, particularly on next year’s European elections? The party that stole the headlines in the past few weeks was Alternative für Deutschland, but compared with the rest of Europe, Germany is late to the party when it comes to eurosceptic movements. AfD belatedly provides the country with its own anti-hero party. Just 3 per cent of Germans currently intend to vote for AfD according to the latest poll, but another

Beppe Grillo: Italy’s new Mussolini

The stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo, like the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini before him, has a craving to take over the piazza and mesmerise the crowd. Where once young Italians chanted the mantra ‘Du-ce! Du-ce!’ now they chant  ‘Bep-pe! Bep-pe!’. But it is not just a shared need to rant and rave at large numbers of complete strangers that hirsute Beppe and bald Benito have in common. Worryingly, for Italy and also for Europe (where democracy seems incapable of solving the existential crisis), there is a lot more to it than that. Beppe Grillo founded the MoVimento 5 Stelle (M5S) in Milan on 4 October 2009. The capital ‘V’ stands for

The View from 22 — Carry on Westminster, Lib Dem growing pains and Vatican scandals

Is ‘inappropriate behaviour’ simply a way of life in Westminster? Following on from the Lord Rennard-Lib Dems allegations, Julie Bindel describes in this week’s Spectator how the Lib Dems are the worst offenders. On the latest View from 22 podcast, Isabel Hardman and James Forsyth share what it’s like to work in Parliament, and some of the inappropriate behaviour they’ve encountered. Why is that behaviour acceptable in Westminster? And are the Lib Dems really worse than any other party? We also discuss this week’s political column on the Lib Dems’ growing pains and their transition from a third party to a cornerstone of government. And does their political operation have any tips

Why I love Beppe Grillo

‘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.

Barometer | 28 February 2013

Political joke The Five Star Movement, led by comedian Beppe Grillo, won 26% of the vote in the Italian general election. Comedian John O’Farrell competed as Labour’s candidate in the Eastleigh by-election. Some other comedians who have won office: — Jon Gnarr won Reykjavik’s mayoral election in 2010 with 35% of the vote, on a platform of free towels in swimming pools and putting polar bears in the city’s museum (instead of shooting them). He had previously played a Swedish Marxist in a TV comedy show. — Al Franken was elected to the US Senate for Minnesota in 2009, after a recount. He had previously been a writer for Saturday

Weary Italian voters can teach UK politicians lessons

Italian voters are clearly cheesed off: with the Establishment, and with the country’s austerity programme. The explosion onto the scene of Beppe Grillo – which Freddy examined in his post from Rome on Sunday – shows quite how cheesed off they are, and it also has wider lessons for the eurozone and for UK politics, too. The first is that voters clearly do not share eurozone leaders’ unswerving commitment to the euro project: Grillo made much of his party’s eurosceptic credentials and won 54 seats in the upper house, with Berlusconi’s centre-right on 116, while Mario Monti, the conduit for the EU’s austerity measures, won only 18. No alliance gained

Italian elections: anti-politics on amphetamines

Rome Italians go to the polls today, and Beppe Grillo still seems to be the name on everybody’s lips. Grillo is expected to get up to 22 per cent of the vote — staggering for a comedian-turned-politician with no discernable policies whose campaign slogan is ‘vaffanculo’ (‘F— off!’). Il Fenomeno Grillo is anti-politics on amphetamines. Is Italian democracy self-immolating? Maybe. Faced with nothing but corruption, recession, imposed EU austerity, and the same old politicians, the downtrodden public are fed up and turning on the system. You can’t really blame them. Some of the Italians I spoken to here today think it is scandalous that Grillo has so much support —