Nationalism and the European elections, Berlusconi and the intra-Mediterranean risorgimento

Link love for 01/06/2009.

PP and PSOE are busy demonising each other for European electoral purposes, but as the disgraceful vote on the Auken report showed, they generally get along pretty well politically speaking once elected and at a safe distance from the electorate. Hacked from the excellent, here’s a chart of national voting cohesion for the 27 member states (data here):

Two years ago Hix, Noury, and Roland contrasted a slow rise in average political cohesion of the six main political groups from 1979 to 2004 with a decline in “the average relative cohesion of each national group of MEPs … from 0.667 in the first parliament to 0.589 in the fifth parliament.” Enlargement in 2004 to include Eastern Europe and Mediterranean statelets means we’re back up to an average of 0.642, but of the pre-2004 membership only Irish MEPs exceed the Spanish in their predilection to vote en bloc. So bollocks to talk of a nation divided: the fact that they insult and eventually kill one another with alarming regularity and in substantial numbers is merely the mysterious manner the Carpetovetonians have of expressing the deep underlying sense of attachment they feel for one another.

Saturday I was covering floors for some house painting and in a neighbouring recycling bin discovered in the government-subsidised El Periódico of evil “right-wingers” the European socialists’ notorious hit-list which bizarrely lumps rabid nationalists together with those who have betrayed Faith & Nation by supporting free trade and opposing corruption and other evil Nazi shit. Like Tom–although for different reasons: something to do with alcohol in my blood-surrogate–I can’t stomach either of the big lists (Mayor Oreja on child abuse vs abortion was a crazy conservative classic), but once again I’m going to ask you to vote for this lot. Even if the website is crap and the candidate not exactly a pollster’s dream. I can’t remember where I’m registered, so get the day off.

Showing no great enthusiasm for revealing what exactly he believes his various governments have achieved, Berlusconi said in a telly interview the other day something along the lines of, “The fundamental difference between me and Mussolini is that where I have dancing girls he had armed thugs.” I’d have thought that his trademark mix of corruption, nationalism and resistance to any meaningful economic change, combined with his knack of being gloriously stupid on camera, would have made him an ideal bedfellow for Zapatero (la Vanguardia, in need of state handouts?), but the PES says nope.

If Berlusconi does have vision of Italy that transcends topless teenagers, recent reports suggest that the Italians may not be the beneficiaries. In a scheme that must surely have been hatched up with Umberto Eco, the legendary Milanese banker and entrepreneur Ernesto Preatoni reveals that he likes being on Lake Como (“surrounded by my children and my women”, which may be a euphemism for dancing girls) so much that he has managed to persuade Berlusconi to lobby Mubarak in support of his plan to build a replica of the lake and its houses at Sharm El Sheikh. If the Union for the Mediterranean is to have any meaning at all, it will surely be found in the love for great palaces and harems shared by the moribund rulers of remarkably youthful appearance scattered along its shores.

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