There is something about elder statesmen that everyone seems to respect. When, say, Dennis Healy
dies, people will remember his good points, not the fact that we had to go begging to the IMF to bail us out.
With Giulio Andreotti, who has died aged 94, this may not be so easy. He was Prime Minister of Italy three times, for a total of around six years between 1972 and 1992. As a Christian Democrat, he was close to what we would now call the worst side of the Catholic Church, the side Pope Francis is determined to get rid of. He was also close to the Mafia. A number of inconvenient people disappeared or died on his watch, including former Prime Minister Aldo Moro, kidnapped by the Red Brigades in 1978, whom Andreotti was accused of doing little to help; also disgraced banker and member of the P2 masonic lodge Michele Sindona (Andreotti was also a member of the lodge) who died of a poisoned coffee in the Voghera prison in 1986. It was said later that Sindona simply knew too much and Andreotti supplied the sugar for his coffee.
Andreotti tells us much about Italy today: he is the low point of where it has been since the war and the rise of Beppe Grillo is due to Italy's failure to kill off the modern day Andreottis.
Margaret Thatcher said of him 'He seemed to have a positive aversion to principle, even a conviction that a man of principle was doomed to be a figure of fun.' One of my local farmers said simply 'He ate us.'