Is Berlusconi set to confound the pollsters?

Posted on February 25, 2013

The polls for today’s Italian General Election have been clear for quite some time. Mario Monti, the EU’s pet technocrat, was going to get a welcome kicking in a popular rejection of unaccountable, top-down government from Brussels. Silvio Berlusconi, clambering from the grave like a permatanned Dracula, was going to be roundly beaten in both Houses of Parliament by the Leftist “Common Good” coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani.

Well, it seems the pollsters shouldn’t have been so certain. Early voter samples by TV station RAI in the key battleground of Lombardy suggest that while Bersani is leading in the Lower House, Berlusconi may be on track to be the biggest political player in the Senate – meaning he will have the power to gridlock the Left’s plans. Cue all sorts of impacts on the stability of the Euro and its so-called recovery…

If RAI’s numbers are correct, and Berlusconi really is going to hold the Left to an effective draw of one house each, what has happened to make the polls so far off?

The UK General Election in 1992 holds some of the answers. The polls predicted a big win for Kinnock and the Labour Party, but on the day the Tories won out (not, arguably, to the long-term benefit of the centre right in Britain, but that’s for another day).

The explanation was simple: people lied to the pollsters.

It turned out that the human element still persists in polling – plenty of voters either wanted the Tories to win or feared the consequences of a Labour victory (or both), but were too embarrassed to tell a stranger from a polling company “I’m voting Conservative.”

The same may have happened in Italy – quite plausibly, given the very public pillorying Berlusconi came in for after his disastrous handling of Italy’s sovereign debt. Bizarrely, that would mean that the Italian equivalent of John Major in 1992 might be Silvio Berlusconi today – not a comparison anyone ever expected to be drawn.

It seems that supporting Silvio, perhaps the world’s most consistently brash political extrovert, has become a very private matter. If his supporters have gone to the ballot box to put him back in the limelight, I doubt he’ll care about how proud or public they might be.

Bunga Bunga…

The Daily Mail owe me a new keyboard

Posted on September 13, 2012

The Daily Mail has a horrifying quite remarkable interview with Edwina Currie today, written by Jan Moir on the back of the paper’s serialisation of her diaries. It’s simultaneously vomitous, unintentionally hilarious and fascinating in the same way as those videos uploaded to Youtube where a teenage skater breaks his arm trying some ill-advised stunt.

I’ll put a health warning on this – only those possessed of a particularly strong stomach or a particularly weak imagination should read the whole piece. In the interests of public safety, I’ve read it for you, and picked out some of the most, err, memorable sections:

Got to say it: the 65-year-old former junior health minister is looking good. Her sausagey, brunette curls are as bouncy as ever, her skin is excellent, she oozes the same indestructible confidence of yesteryear, even if she is worried about her weight.

“Sausagey”? I’m not sure that comes across quite as the compliment it was seemingly intended to be, Jan. So now we are greeted by an image of Edwina Currie whose head is adorned with long bags of ground-up meat, like some kind of butchershop Valkyrie.

‘Was I sex-obsessed? Well I certainly wasn’t cupcake-obsessed, let’s put it that way.’

Good to know – but having ruled-out cupcake obsession, does that inherently rule in sex obsession? Or just leave open the door to obsessions with sheds, magpies or petrol tankers?

Elsewhere in the book, she is constantly measuring others up to herself and finding them wanting. No one is quite good enough. Ex-husband Ray is dim and boring. Norman Lamont is sly and self-indulgent. Libby Purves is fat and tatty. Paddy Ashdown is not very bright, Michael Portillo is unpleasant, Michael Howard is oily and Ann Widdecombe is aggressive.

But other than that, the 90s were great.

‘I am quite a fan of David Cameron. He understands duty. He’s got charm, he’s emollient, he’s got a face like a nicely creamed baby’s bottom.’

Like a what? I’m sure Downing Street will be if not delighted, then at least utterly bewildered and slightly troubled by that.

On her first date with former murder squad copper JJ — after he had appeared as a guest on her Radio 5 Live show — she found herself well and truly locked up in the jail of love.

Alan Partridge has found a gateway into the real world, and he is writing under the pseudonym “Jan Moir”.

‘I don’t regret the affair with [John Major]. I don’t do regrets,’ she says. And even after all this time, a glazed and faraway look creeps into her eyes when she thinks of him, rather like a panther eyeing a crippled vole that’s just appeared on the horizon.

Trust me, even the panthers and the crippled voles are cringeing at that one. What does it even mean? It’s hard to imagine what kind of “faraway look” a panther adopts when it spots a crippled vole appearing on the horizon. Perhaps it’s a look that says “wow – check out that vole, it’s totally knackered”, or a lingering regret that without any opposable thumbs it can’t film this for LOLs with other panthers at a later date. Or, more probably, simply a look that says “Roar, miaow, roar”.

‘John Major was a sexy beast. I think his history shows that. He was 19 when he was living with a woman who was 33. Believe me, I did not have to teach that man anything.’

And there it goes – my lunch, vengefully returned from its rightful place, all over the keyboard. I’ll be sending the Mail an invoice.