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Is Italy’s Meloni extreme right? No, she’s just right thinking

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GIORGIA Meloni is poised to become Italy’s next prime minister after her Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party came out on top in Sunday’s general election. This was no surprise to most Italians. The result was a ‘foregone conclusion’, my neighbours in central Italy were telling me last week. Having placed their faith in more or less every other politician over the years, voting for Meloni was, for many Italians, a last throw of the dice.  

Her party’s vote of around 26 per cent represents a clear change of mood in Italy since Fratelli d’Italia was founded in 2012. In the 2013 election the party won just 2 per cent of the vote. Although this more than doubled at the 2018 election, it was still no more than 4.4 per cent. In alliance with the parties of Matteo Salvini’s Lega and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Meloni is now heading for the Chigi Palace, Italy’s rather grander version of 10 Downing St.

Unlike her three predecessors – Mario Draghi, Giuseppe Conte and Paolo Gentiloni – Giorgia Meloni will be a prime minister who is also an elected politician. This fact alone makes media and political vilification of her across Europe and beyond somewhat surprising. In his excellent piece for this website, republished on Sunday, Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack provides an insightful perspective into Meloni’s traditional conservative values.

Meloni is certainly critical of Woke ideology. Her values relate especially to family life, Christian ethics, and Italy’s national independence. She strongly opposes illegal immigration and has been an outspoken critic of the coercive Covid vaccination programme in Italy.  

As a teenager from a single-parent family, she became something of a Roman ‘street-fighter’, a trait that remains, and not only in her accent. In those rebellious days she flirted with post-fascist elements on the political fringes before joining the National Alliance in 1996. This party, founded the previous year, rejected the fascist roots from which it had grown and so, according to Meloni, did she. By 2008 she was an elected deputy (MP) for the National Alliance and served as Minister of Youth in a coalition led by Berlusconi.

It is this early background to her political career that has made it easier for opponents to label Meloni variously as ‘extreme right’, ‘far right’ or ‘hard right’ – but never ‘in the right’. She was surely ‘in the right’, however, when as Youth Minister she called on Italian athletes ‘to protest China’s human rights policies with symbolic gestures during the Beijing Olympics – even possibly boycotting the opening ceremony . . . to show disapproval over China’s Tibet policy and human rights record.’

More recently, Meloni has been critical of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Pakistan for their record on human rights and for links to terrorism. She has moved a long way from that youthful flirtation with fascism and aspects of Mussolini’s ‘achievements’. Mussolini’s own transition from violent left-wing socialist in his younger years to violent right-wing fascist in later life makes an interesting reverse parallel to Meloni’s journey.

Writing for the Spectator, Nicholas Farrell recently interviewed Meloni and posed the question: Is she the most dangerous woman in Europe? ‘It is indisputable,’ he claimed, ‘that Brothers of Italy are the heirs to Mussolini, in the sense that the party was founded in 2012 by Meloni and others who had been members of the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) which was set up in 1946 by former fascists.’ This is no different, however, from stating the indisputability of Italy’s National Fascist Party being a product of the left since Mussolini was initially a stalwart socialist.

Meloni is certainly like Mussolini in changing tack, in her case in the opposite direction. She told Farrell: ‘When we founded Brothers of Italy, we founded it as the centre-right, with its head held high. When I am something, I declare it. I never hide. If I was a fascist, I would say that I am a fascist. Instead, I have never spoken of fascism because I am not a fascist.’

No one should be better placed to know than Meloni herself. Those who claim otherwise, she told Farrell, are engaged in a ‘smear campaign’. Meloni made it clear to Farrell that she and her party look not to Mussolini for inspiration but to the likes of the conservative English philosopher, the late Sir Roger Scruton. Meloni sees herself as what, once upon a time, used to be regarded as a Tory.

It is usual, of course, these days to label anyone with conservative and family-orientated views as ‘fascist’. This is a real let-off for the likes of Mussolini and Hitler who are to be regarded, it seems, as no different from the average conservative thinker.

Meloni even looked to the political left when explaining her decision in the parliamentary chamber not to join Draghi’s recent government of ‘all the parties’. She paraphrased Bertolt Brecht: ‘We sat on the wrong side because all the other seats were occupied.’

Brussels is clearly rattled by Meloni. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has already announced that, as with Hungary and Poland, ‘we have tools’ to deal with such changes in government. She should stop fretting. Nor does Brussels need to take this advice from Brecht regarding the decision of the Italian electorate:

‘ . . . the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
 . . . Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?’ – Die Lösung (The Solution)

The success of Meloni should not trouble Brussels nor, indeed, any other anti-democratic gloom-monger. Is the election result a good or a bad thing for Italy? Is Meloni a neo-fascist or a freedom-fighter? Is Italy heading for better times or worse? The fact is, when it comes to Italy, you can have any truth you like. Things are rarely what they seem. Churchill’s description of the Soviet Union is a better fit, these days, for Italy – ‘it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.’

Anyone who wishes to understand Italy and the latest turn of events needs to understand what most educated Italians know only too well – gattopardismo. This term broadly means that in order for things to remain the same everything has to change. It derives from that most insightful of all novels about Italy, The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. If you have any interest in Italian affairs, my advice is to read it.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovernhttp://www.cre.org.uk
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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