The most gaffe-prone European leader of modern times, 71-year-old media billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, starts his third term as Italy’s prime minister today. Despite Italy facing deep economic and social problems, being a country close to recession with consumer buying power falling and unemployment rising, the man is back to pilot the ship of state. Somehow Berlusconi has survived a series of blunders and PR disasters. In his prime, Berlusconi thought nothing of insulting fellow politicians, world leaders and whole countries. He was even forced to make a grovelling public apology to his wife, Veronica, after she wrote to a newspaper saying she had been offended at his flirting with several attractive women at a TV awards ceremony.
Remember in 2002, when he was pictured at a European summit making horn gestures with his fingers behind the head of the Spanish foreign minister? The next year he insulted German MEP Martin Schulz, comparing him to a concentration camp guard. Even though Mr Berlusconi insisted he was only joking, it caused a brief diplomatic rift between Italy and Germany.
In 2005, when he was opening the European Food Safety Authority in Parma, he claimed he had used “playboy tactics” on Finland’s female president to get her vote to locate the body in Italy. He also insulted Finland by saying the only thing they had in their cuisine was herring.
Sexism has been a regular theme. Berlusconi, who has had several facelifts, once suggested businesses should move to Italy as the secretaries were far prettier than anywhere else in the world. Then, in the current election campaign, he said “centre-right female politicians were far prettier than the centre-left ones”. He has also managed to offend the world’s largest nation by saying: “Chinese communists ate babies and it was a well-known fact.”
Perhaps his image carried him back to power. Berlusconi rarely appears in public without make-up, is known as a perfectionist and stickler for visual detail. He urged his party chief in Sicily to follow his example and have a hair transplant in a novel attempt to prevent defeat at the next election.
With the image-junkie Sarkozy in the seat of power in France, is it really the age of PR style or meaningful substance? Let’s face it, these statesman don’t really fit the historic image of great and worthy political giants and diplomats. I don’t feel that they are rational, authoritative or adventurous and they’re certainly not inspirational. It’s disturbing to think that these clowns are now in charge of the Three Ring circus. Maybe, if pretty boy Paddick was to use his GQ-esque charms, he could turn the tables in the up-and-coming London mayoral cat fight. Let’s face it, both Ken and Boris have been beaten by the ugly stick.