27 February, 2008

Hungary and the euro

Hungary has floated its currency, the Forint. The accompanying statement said that this would help towards the goal of joining the Euro.

So, let’s see if we can understand this. As part of its approach to ‘full’ membership, Hungary had fixed its exchange rate against the euro. It liked the idea of fixed exchange rates. Then to help it...er...fix its value to the euro it decouples, preferring floating exchange rates as a means to ...er...fixing them again. The truth is it can’t hold on at these high exchange rates.

Hungary’s is a developing economy: high growth (or supposed to be), high inflation. The last thing it needs is to fix its currency to the mature economies of Europe. Its growth will come from its cheap labour manufacturing and exporting low value low tech items. Like China. Does it think China would have fixed its currency to the euro as it rose against the dollar?

It’s like watching someone walk slowly towards the cliff edge with their eyes bandaged.

David Cameron

Cameron has made a major speech in a debate organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, saying that multiculturalism has brought us to the point where even social workers shrug their shoulders at human rights abuses saying 'It's their Culture, isn't it?'. He said Britain now has a cultural apartheid which will lead to the introduction of shari'a law unless something is done about it.

The speech is under-reported, but covered in the Mail. Why not the Telegraph? I heard a bit on Sky.

I suspect that I am not the only person who will be thinking that if he pursues this line, and that of repatriating powers from Europe, I can see myself voting Conservative for the first time since 1987.

Some way to go yet but...

23 February, 2008

The Auschwitz Fiasco

Something really does have to be said about this. The papers and the blogs are up in arms about Cameron’s having described trips to Auschwitz as a gimmick. In my view it was that and worse.

I am a middle aged man; I was born ten years after the end of World War II. In my childhood the War was all consuming. My comics would be of the racially stereotyped casual but brave Englishman/dogged but pigheaded German, Achtung Spitfeuer sort of stuff. We played war games on the street. When people came to the house, the man would be assessed by what sort of war he had had. We were over-fed because the previous generation had gone without, but they wanted you to know they had: any attempt at not eating or throwing away food resulted in ‘We’d have been grateful for that in the War’. The previous generation had shown character and wanted to point out one’s own lack of it; feckless youths on the street, rock and roll, that’s not why I fought Hitler. Unfortunately the chance of bravely defending my country was not open to me so I felt guilty. The War was an all-pervasive thing in which I had been unable to take part and was looked down on for it.

I’d like subsequent generations to have things different.

I think we still have too much of the Second World War and am appalled at attempts to lock up eighty year old men on flimsy identification. And by the way none of them are ever Germans or Japanese – have you noticed that? I do not think it is necessarily a good idea for our children to visit the Auschwitz Museum; I do not think that Auschwitz is the way to teach them what went on in the war; I think teaching them not to be afraid of people who are different is better than teaching them that Germans used to be evil. Let them spend the time learning German.

And I do think this was a gimmick. They weren’t sending all the children to the Auschwitz museum, just two from each class, who presumably would be the cleverer ones (I suppose some formal reporting back world be necessary) who needed the educational point less than others. And the Government weren’t paying for it all anyway. It is clear to a complete schweinhund that this was a sop to the bien pensant left to make up for having allowed the tax break to non domiciles. It was messing around with kids’ education to avoid a difficult headline in the New Statesman or the Guardian.

It was a cynical cheap effort by Labour and the Tories were right to expose it. Let’s educate our children, not force feed them with what they should be thinking.

Italian News 23rd February

In Venice, which is at risk from being ruined by floods, gondolas have been left stranded in mud along Venice's Grand Canal after one of the lowest ever tides.

More than 3,000 tonnes of rubbish are still lying on the streets of Naples but some of it is being stolen. According to the Corriere della Sera peddlers go through the waste before dawn, looking for valuables and extracting "pairs of shoes and pornographic videos". Of many nationalities, they have become “linked together, an ethnic band cemented by a shared commercial intent based on the sharing of rubbish".

According to Dr Emmanuele Jannini and his team of researchers at the University of L’Aquila, it is now possible for the first time to determine by a simple, rapid and inexpensive method if a woman has got a G spot or not. Apparently it is called sex.

An exhibition in Venice seeks to rehabilitate the reputation of the Vandals, Goths and Huns who ravaged the continent at the fall of Rome. They had their good sides, apparently.

Following an accident in which a 16th century violin was damaged, it is reported that there are 650 Stradivari and 100 del Gesù violins still extant.

An Italian parliamentary commission reported this week that the most efficient holding company in the globalised marketplace is the ’Ndrangheta criminal organisation, Calabria’s mafia.

Wine industry sources say that half the 7 million bottle production of the 2003 Brunello has been sold before it came on to the market.

Florence has held a referendum on whether or not to block the building of a tramline system which would pass through the city's historic centre but the vote failed to reach a quorum.

A luxury chocolate from Tuscany has been named the world's best. 'Toscano Black 63%', made by the Amedei firm in Pisa, won the Golden Bean awarded each year by the London-based Academy of Chocolate.

Italian scientists in Sardinia, where Silvio Berlusconi lives, have identified one of the genes responsible for male baldness. It appears to be connected to the gene which makes you talk too much.

Oetzi, Italy's famed Iceman, whose corpse is 5,000 years old, is to have company next year as mummies from all over the world arrive for a major show in the northern Italian city of Bolzano

Steak Fiorentina is again legal after 7 years. The steak should properly be from 30 month old cattle – giving a more mature flavour, but the maximum age had been reduced to 24 months by EU directive.

A pensioner from Asti bit off the tip of a neighbour's nose in an argument about a parking space.

Prof. Bruno Siciliano of Naples University, who leads an EU project to produce a household robot, has unveiled the prototype called Justine, saying ‘She's flexible and precise enough to make a cup of coffee’. Unfortunately Justine seems to have a mind of her own and will only make instant coffee at the moment, not much use in Italy.

Judging by the streets of Naples she appears to be OK at putting the rubbish out, though.

Hollywood strongman Sylvester Stallone says he wants to die in Italy. Suggestions are that he might try his luck as a pedestrian in central Rome or steal a parking slot in Asti.

Outgoing Deputy Premier and Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli on Monday announced his intention to run for mayor of Rome. He was mayor in 1993 and 2001

Rutelli’s nickname is Cicciobello, a popular baby doll, signifying baby good looks but empty of content.

Rutelli will be associated with Walter Veltroni’s Partito Democratico, an ethnic band cemented by a shared commercial intent based on the sharing of rubbish.

22 February, 2008

Our investment

At a time of credit squeeze on the one hand and falling house prices on the other you would expect a bank to tighten its lending criteria. We used to say, when I was in banking some years ago, that if you had to force the sale of a property and go to the expense and delay of getting its owners out, the most you could lend was 70% of its value. Given property prices are falling it doesn't take much sense to see that the ratio should be around 60%.

Until last night, Northern Rock were lending 125%, double what is prudent and considerably more than what is barely sane. Until last night! And Gordon Brown says it has a healthy loan book, but until his defeat in the Lords, didn't want us to be able to find anything out about our investment under the Freedom of Information Act.

What have they got us into? I would remind readers that I pointed out last year that this had been done to save jobs in a Labour heartland. How much is each of these votes going to cost us?

21 February, 2008

Liechtenstein isolated!

According to the FT, Chancellor Merkel of Germany has threatened Liechtenstein with isolation in Europe unless it changes its banking secrecy laws. German prosecutors suspect 1,000 people of using special trusts in Liechtenstein to hide hundreds of millions of euros from tax authorities. Merkel said Liechtenstein must act fast: “The clock is ticking.”

Prince Alois of Liechtenstein accused Germany of acting in the affair like an “overpowering state”.

So: Germany wants high public expenditure and high taxes which some of its citizens try to evade. This is entirely a German problem and yet Merkel tries to blame it on tiny Liechtenstein, saying that despite the fact that it is not part of Germany and not even in the EU, it should not have the right to set a taxation system which does not please Germany.

I wonder if Mrs Merkel is so insensitive as not to realise this behaviour might bring back memories for some people. The whole affair is an utter disgrace and I hope the brave Prince Alois will give her a properly Saxon response.

17 February, 2008


The current Cypriot elections are a closely fought battle, and they are significant because the new incumbent will have to do something about Turkey, and the candidates have different leanings on the subject.

Henry Kissinger told his staff that if ever they found him making plans about Cyprus they were to put him in a straightjacket and bundle him off to the nearest hospital, but I do think a little objectivity might be in order.

Here’s what the BBC say on their website and it’s the nearest I have ever seen them come towards impartiality:

Cyprus was partitioned after a Turkish invasion in 1974, which came shortly after a Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta ruling Greece at the time.

So the Turkish invasion came ‘shortly after’ the coup – no hint that it was because of the coup, that the Greek military junta overthrew the constitution and Turkey had to protect its citizens.

Just suppose there was some other country, say Kuwait, and a neighbouring power, a military junta, fomented revolt then poured its troops in, setting up a foreign government with martial law. The UN intervenes. Which side would you expect your government to support?

There has been a great deal of evil done here over the last 34 years, by both sides, but why do we support the regime which broke the agreed bipartisan constitution in Cyprus? Why don’t we recognise neither side, or both, and let them sort it out?

The Turks will never trust us to broker a solution unless we are impartial.

Price Charles and Global Warming

I am a big fan of Prince Charles. He has spoken such a lot of sense over the years that I can allow him a piece of ill-advised nonsense occasionally, and such is, it would appear, his latest speech to the European Parliament on climate change.

Cranmer berates him (and HRH such a supporter of the prayer book!) for his statement ‘Surely this is just the moment in history for which the European Union was created?’ saying ‘When a rump Parliament, corrupt Church and a compromised Crown are all united in favour of ‘ever closer union’, only divine intervention, revolution, or a latter-day Cromwell can save the British people from the 'unavoidable' tyranny’

Well, well. No one is more eurosceptical than me, and I do think the Prince was ‘ill-advised’ to make such a political statement (I can only assume the PM’s office read his speech in advance and concluded it would take some of the pressure off them – which is one reason why it was ill advised).

But actually I don’t mind environmental issues being sorted at EU level – it is a cross border thing. It’s all the other interference into our lives I can’t stand. It’s easy enough: discuss, make a proposal, then publish the names of those countries that disagreed (no vetoes, thanks).

There’s a couple of things I can’t grasp, however. Firstly I keep reading that there is in fact no global warming at the moment. That statistically (whatever that means) global temperatures have been stable for 10 years. Do the environmentalists accept this? In what way is it wrong?

Secondly, HRH talks about warming of 1.5 degrees but the Kyoto protocol would (if it had worked, and it didn’t) have reduced temperatures by only 0.5deg. Doesn’t this mean we are wasting our time trying to cut carbon emissions to reduce temperatures and would spend the money better looking after the people who will be affected?

Perhaps one of my readers knows the answer to all this. I don’t.

16 February, 2008

Italian News Valentine's Special

St Valentine was Italian (what else?) and was Bishop of Terni, martyred in Rome in the 3rd century.

Valentine had no connection with February 14th, which is the day birds are supposed to mate.

A pair of golden eagles mated this year on 14th February in front of a huge face of Mussolini carved into the hillside near the Marche town of Acqualanga. The act has been posted on You Tube.

Another reason for the date is that it is near the Roman festival of Lupercal when young men worshipping the cult of Romulus, Remus and the She Wolf (La Lupa) dressed only in the skins of newly killed goats, beat their prospective partners with slivers of goatskin.

My researches indicate that this practice is not now popular.

Italians spent 100 million euros on 22 million flowers for Valentine’s Day. Although lilies and orchids are popular, roses account for 60% of all flowers sold during this period.

By the end of Thursday, Italians are expected to have handed over 14 million roses, at a cost of some 45 million euros. That is about 10 times the amount spent on chocolates.

Red roses are regarded as the classic, if somewhat banal sign of passion, while white ones indicate pure, spiritual love. Musky pink indicates a capricious beauty, a peach colour means secret love and light pink highlights friendship and gratitude. Yellow roses can point to the passion connected to overpowering jealousy but can also hint at a declining love.

As can beating your partner with slivers of goatskin.

In other news,

Italians have a passion for comic strips. 2,800 are published per year, of which 58% are translated from Japanes and Korean

An Italian survey for the anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol on 16th February determined that Italy has 11,876,691,354 trees of more than 1.3 metres in height and 4.5cm in diameter, around 200 per person.

The most common species is the beech, diffuse in the Appenines.

Emilia Romagna and Umbria are the most densely forested with over 1,800 trees per hectare, while the Northern regions of Valle d’Aosta and Alto Adige have around 700.

The Kyoto anniversary was also celebrated by turning off the lights. Darkness descended on The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Saint Mark's Square in Venice, and the Italian parliament (not much change there, then).

Italy’s economy is thought to have contracted in the 4th quarter of 2007, despite paying a lot of people to count the trees, but no one is sure because a technical problem held up production of the data.

Although official statistics show that Italy has one of the lowest employment rates in Europe, an estimated 6m Italians are thought to have two jobs.

Italy has over 120,000 architects, more than any country in Europe. Germany is second with 50,000; Finland has only 2,280.

Police have uncovered the hideout of Mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo, astonishingly near Palermo in Sicily. The Lo Piccolo clan controlled much of Palermo through charging businesses and shops 'pizzi' of between 500 and 10,000 euros a month. They even imposed a fixed charge of 15 euros to keep electricity running in parts of the Sicilian capital (it is thought many customers complained they weren’t succeeding).

A survey of prostitutes in Italy has shown 34% hold degrees or diplomas, 11% speak at least one foreign language correctly, 9% read five or six books a year and 38% read at least one newspaper a day. Over 50% of prostitutes prefer to watch political talk shows to reality shows. 26% prefer to exercise their profession in the early afternoon, from 1pm to 3pm, while only 16% still opt for the night.

Researchers from the universities of Pavia and Milan, using a small nuclear reactor to examine strands of his hair, have determined the British did not poison Napoleon

The pigeons in Venice costs each resident some 275 euros a year to clean up the mess.

The largest memorabilia show ever dedicated to Pinocchio will be held in Milan in March. Carlo Collodi's Adventures of Pinocchio, whose nose grew longer and longer if he told a lie, was first published in 1883 and is Italy's most printed book after the Bible in the last 100 years. In Italy today there are 400 Pinocchio collectors.

There is a new Euro-quality level for Neapolitan pizzas, which must be made only of hardwheat flour, fresh yeast, water and sea salt, with a topping of olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes (in slices no thicker than 8mm) mozzarella di bufala and basil.

Football is a major export for Italy. Following England’s appointment of Fabio Cappello, former Italy manager Giovanni Trapattoni is the new manager of Ireland.

Michele 'The Pope' Greco, known for his ability to mediate between the various families in the Sicilian Mafia has died aged 83.

Benedict ‘The Pope’ XVI has instructed bishops to show ''greater sobriety and rigour'' when deciding candidates for sainthood. They over-promote local heroes, and their noses are getting longer and longer.

13 February, 2008

Athletics and drugs

Dwain Chambers tested positive for a banned substance in 2004, was barred from athletics competition and is now back. Unfortunately, he still seems to run faster than the other competitors and wants a place in the England team. The selectors think his presence in the team would be embarrassing but Chambers, understandably, says he did the crime but he’s done the time.

The only solution to all this is to be found in Formula 1. Just as they have the Constructors’ championship, parallel to the individual drivers’ one, so athletics would have a pharmaceutical championship, with, say, Hoechst competing alongside Glaxo SmithKline and Aventis for having assisted the quickest athletic performances.

It would bring a huge amount of sponsorship to the sport and only recognise what is already going on.

11 February, 2008


In my post The Bench on the Left I argued that Archbishop Williams’ statement that incorporation of some Shari’a law into our own was ‘inevitable’, was simply multiculturalism gone mad, like the call for an end to the blasphemy laws. Now, after a million words of outrage the dust has settled and opinion formers are beginning to agree.

Here is Janet Daley in the Telegraph ‘The archbishop has discredited not just himself, and the über-tolerant multicultural lobby that he sought to support, but the position of the established Church.’

And an astonishing U-turn from leftie Johann Hari in the Independent: ‘Rowan Williams has shown us one thing – why multiculturalism must be abandoned’

You heard it here first

09 February, 2008

Italian News Justice Special

A 34-year-old butcher from Vicenza has got away with a commuted prison sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl after judges decided the pair were ''in love''.

The Italian age of consent is 14, or 13 if there is less than a three-year age gap between the two people involved.

Two septuagenarian agricultural labourers from Puglia, who are suing the Social Security Service for pension rights, have been given a hearing date of 27th February 2020. This would imply a ruling between 2025 and 2030 and a lodging of the decision in 2035 assuming there were no delays. On appeal the hearing was brought forward to 2013.

In Rome you can register a complaint that you have been waiting too long for justice, but the registration takes two years

200,000 cases a year expire due to the statute of limitations.

58% of prison inmates are still awaiting sentence.

A civil case takes an average of eight years. A divorce takes 7 ½ years.

Less than 5% of fines are collected

A judge forgot about an immigrant held in jail for 15 months but got off with a warning because it was his first time.

3,612 preliminary investigations to ascertain judges’ liability in 3,612 cases of compensation for protracted trials have ended with 3,612 acquittals.

Failure to update the system (it is done by hand) enabled one woman of no fixed abode to be detained 122 times in various towns for theft and mugging, and sentenced to segments of six to nine months on each occasion, racking up a theoretical total of over 50 years imprisonment without spending a single day in jail.

In Campobasso district €138,000 are allocated for the expenses of the courts; €1 million are allocated to compensate people for the delays.

In other news,

American Democrats living in Italy and Italians with dual nationality were able to vote in the 'Super Tuesday' primaries thanks to polling stations set up in Milan, Florence, Rome and Bologna. Italy's minister for sports and youth policy, Giovanna Melandri, has dual nationality and voted for Sen. Obama

Tuscans produce the most rubbish in Italy, 700kg per person per year, 24% more than the average.

Malpensa airport, which describes itself as Milan (it is 45 minutes away by train) is suing the bankrupt Alitalia for €1.25 billion for having cut 180 fights a day from its schedules.

Omar Bin Laden, 27 year old son of the more famous Osama, was seen on a shopping trip in Rome with his 52 year old British wife Jane Felix Browne, both dressed in black leather. He says he wants to meet the pope.

Italy has the highest total in the European Union of deaths at the workplace.

18% of Italian children are born outside wedlock. The figure for France and Sweden is over 50%

Life expectancy in Italy is 78.6 years for a man and 84 years for a woman. Men live an average of a year longer in Umbria (most of it spent queuing at the Post Office). 30% of Italians are over 65 compared to a European average of 25%

Perugia celebrates the 550th anniversary of the birth of Renaissance artist Pinturicchio. The local boy, described as ''small, deaf and not much of a looker'' by a contemporary writer, overcame his misfortunes to become a favourite of dissolute Borgia pope Alexander VI and worked on the Sistine Chapel.

Silvio Berlusconi will lead ‘People of Freedom’, an alliance of Forza Italia and the Allianza Nazionale, into the elections. He is the world’s 52nd richest man, a tribute to what you can achieve despite being small, deaf and not much of a looker.

The Bench on the Left

A month ago (see my post the Church the Dimwits and the atheists) it was a former Archbishop of Canterbury who had called for the abolition of the blasphemy laws. Now the present incumbent has called for the introduction of some elements of Shari’a law into our system. You don’t usually hear much from Archbishops, so what is going on?

The point about the proposal to abolish the blasphemy laws is that it amounted to a plea for multiculturalism: blasphemy only exists against certain tenets held by the Established Church: you can’t blaspheme against other religions (at least it isn’t a crime).

This outburst by Rowan Williams is the same. He can’t see why there should be some aspects about living in Britain which are individual to Britain: in this case British Common Law which holds individual non-Muslim views about marriage and financial disputes among other things.

You never heard of multiculturalism 30 years ago. It crept into the language of the Left almost unnoticed as a replacement for multi-racialism. It is of course much different. The Left hate the nation state, whereas the British people, by and large, do not. In my view immigrants want to see Britishness here.

Now even the left has realised that we should be heading for a multiracial, monocultural society. All on the left, that is, except for the Church of England, which not only is proceeding on its multicultural way but has not noticed the shift of opinion against it in the last few years. I wrote in January ‘This recent blast is the last call of the manic multiculturalists’, but it seems they are not finished with us yet.

We should ask Rowan Williams to begin his multicultural journey in countries where Shari’a law applies.

06 February, 2008


The Group Privacy International on its website produces a map of the world according to the level of surveillance of the public and the controls to limit it. Britain ranks at the most dangerous level ‘endemic surveillance societies’ along with Russia, China, Malaysia etc.

Now I believe it is the right thing to do to bug suspected terrorists and serious criminals. And I believe it to be perfectly possible that someone with terrorist leaning could become an MP: the Wilson doctrine whereby MPs are not bugged, drawn up at a time of suspected and proven communists in the government, was clearly always nonsense.

But we need to change two things: firstly the bugging of people over trivial matters. It is clearly wrong that councils can tap your phone if they suspect you of not filling the rubbish bins correctly. Secondly we need proper accountability: if someone has been bugged we need to know exactly who will have authorised that bugging. Often it will have been the right thing to do or at least defensible. Sometimes I fear it will not have been and that person needs to be held to account.

The Tories are going to find this hard to articulate, but they must try.

05 February, 2008

Italy votes

Berlusconi has refused to co-operate with temporary prime minister Marini (Berlusconi is way ahead in the polls so who can blame him) so Italy will have its election. Favoured date is 13th April (like most European countries Italy votes on a Sunday).

04 February, 2008

Cecile Freund

Cecile: j'ai recu tes messages mais le blog ne me donne pas ton adresse email. Tu peux me contacter a timhedges@btinternet.com : il me plairait beaucoup d'apprendre comment ca va chez toi. Tim

Italy and England

After one of my rants about corruption in British politics someone posted that as a commentator on Italian politics I seemed to put up with quite a lot here. And it’s true: ‘sleaze’, which we might define as the political class feathering its own nest, legally or illegally, is rife here, and far worse than in England.

First let me say that I am a guest in this country. That does not mean that I think it wrong to criticise – it’s in the interests of Italy that someone who has experience of other countries should make his views known and anyway I pay taxes the same as anyone else. It’s just that I believe that you get the politicians, and the political system, that you deserve, and this is what the Italians chose. They can change it: Italy is a democracy.

Don’t get me wrong: when I read that poor families are having difficulty making it to the end of the month and that Clemente Mastella went to a football match in an Airbus paid for by the State (not illegal of course but definitely sleazy) my blood boils. But Britain and Italy are very different places:

1 Martin Luther. The Catholic countries of Europe, France, Italy and Spain, never got the Puritan morality thrust on them: ‘this is a sin and must be denounced!’. You would never get the typical News of the World headline ‘X in three-in-a-bed shame’. Here if someone gets into bed with a couple of supermodels it is not a cause for shame: good on him. Equally if you manage to screw something out of the state good luck.

2 Jealousy. I think this rather springs from the Catholic/protestant argument above. I remember Jeremy Clarkson having parked a brand new Ferrari convertible outside a pub and returning to find it full of spittle. Here if you have a nice car, people say ‘Complimenti’. They think that someone important should travel in a Maserati and have a supermodel on his arm. This is La Bella Figura. Not to do so would count against him.

3 For obvious reasons after the war the Italian Constitution did not place too much power centrally. Ironically giving powers to the regions has meant there are very few controls on the use of power centrally (and almost none in the regions where corruption is rife)

4 There is so much organised crime here that people can’t get excited about a bit of sleaze.

Lastly I think Britain should be an example of honesty and straight dealing. So I shall go on shooting my mouth off about sleaze whether it’s in Italy, England or anywhere else.

03 February, 2008

I am not a crook

There’s a lot of weasel words going on about parliamentary sleaze at the moment and I think it is time to be clear on at least the basics.

The Guy Fawkes blog has been making the running on this and today he lists five current investigations. There will be more, I think we all know that. And politicians run around like headless chickens wondering why hardly anyone votes! People think that one lot is as bad as another so what’s the point?

Now we are getting the sly mitigation. Ian Dale, a decent man, wonders whether Mr Conway – suspended from parliament and the whip withdrawn – hasn’t suffered enough, whether we shouldn’t call an end to the witch-hunt. Conway himself in the Sunday Mail says he has done nothing wrong (inadvertently copying the ‘I am not a crook’ line from Richard Nixon); Wendy Alexander says no useful purpose would result from her resigning.

This is where we have to be clear. Nothing can be above parliament in a parliamentary democracy so we must let them rule themselves. This takes a leap of faith on the part of the populace, particularly now, but we can do it. In return we require absolute scrupulousness. These people knew they were doing wrong – Conway, Hain, Alexander, the rest – but they thought they’d get away with it.

Parliament rules itself – no problem with that – but the burden of proof must be on our politicians to show they are without sin, otherwise they will not be allowed to make laws over us. Even if Conway were innocent – and frankly I don’t believe for a moment that he is – he should have been so scared of opprobrium that he kept proper records of his family’s work.

In the meantime we must root out every single instance of this, or the very foundation of our democracy – people going out to vote – will be at risk.

La premiere dame

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni are married. She will be the best looking First Lady since Marie-Antoinette, and the first to sing in an advert for a foreign car.

Don't forget Sarkozy is not just head of the executive but head of state; one wonders what the British reaction would be if the Duke of Edinburgh were in an advert for Peugeot. On balance I think it would be a lot more entertaining than Ms Bruni singing 'Bang Bang My Baby Shot me down', particularly if, to make the comparison fair, HRH were singing the same song.

02 February, 2008

Italian News - Volare Special

The song known to millions as Volare (oh-oh-oh-oh) is 50 years old this week. It is the most popular Italian song ever, except for the ice cream advert one.

This week at the San Remo festival there will be the unmissable treat of a lengthy tribute to the song.

Its proper name is Nel Blu dipinto di blu (in the blue painted blue)

The song concerns a dream in which the protagonist paints his face and hands blue and flies.

The composer says it was inspired by Marc Chagall’s painting Le coq rouge (the red cock – not easy this is it?).

The State broadcaster refused to broadcast the first performance, at the San Remo festival, saying the words were incomprehensible, but it is suspected because Italian singers at that time were supposed to stand still, whereas Domenico Modugno waved his hands in the air (imagine an Italian doing that)

In other news,

A museum dedicated to Benito Mussolini has been opened in response to requests by German tourists. The museum in Salò, on the shores of Lake Garda, examines the last days of fascism in the town that Mussolini used as his headquarters in the final 19 months of the Second World War.

The Pope graciously received the Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who graciously presented him with a bottle of beer, brewed in Yorkshire and called The Holy Grail.

A Milan court cleared Silvio Berlusconi of false accounting in the 1980s. The charge had been invalidated by the fact that as Prime Minister in 2002 Berlusconi changed the law to make false accounting no longer a crime.

The Italian bee population fell by almost half in 2007 as 200,000 hives disappeared. As well as the drop in honey production a third of all farm produce depends on insect pollination, and around 80% of this is carried out by bees.

Real estate prices in Italy fell by an average of 2.4% in 2007.

The President asked Vice President Franco Marini to try to form a government after the collapse of the Prodi administration.

Mr Berlusconi made an impassioned plea for an election but it was dismissed on the grounds that the words were incomprehensible and he was waving his hands in the air.