Golden Boy?It seems that Mario Monti, Europe's competition commissioner, the man tipped for the role of Finance Minister in Berlusconi's ailing government, has made his decision now - and it's not good for Berlusconi. Well, it's not good for Berlusconi if you believe the version of events from Mario Monti, that is. His version is that he turned down the offer in order that he could continue working in Brussels. However, the situation presented by Berlusconi's aides is that il presidente del consiglio decided not to offer the job to Mr Monti. Instead, il presidente del consiglio, Silvio Berlusconi chose to act as interim finance minister for an undetermined period.
Not that that situation will pass without comment though. Berlusconi has barely managed to keep his hands off every political lever available to him, causing many of his 'colleagues' to feel that he is just too pervasive in the affairs of state these days.
This feeling has been voiced by Italy's Union of Christian Democrats leader, Marco Follini, who said it will quit il presidente del consiglio, Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government unless the premier "shakes up" his cabinet, Follini continued, saying "There is lack of innovation and too much concentration of power". It is interesting to note that the UDC, of which Follini is head, was very much against the spending cuts of around €7.5 billion proposed by Berlusconi, saying some of them will hurt southern Italy, where unemployment is about 18 percent, more than four times the rate in the north.
Follini has also criticized Berlusconi's plan to cuts taxes for all Italians, including lowering the top tax rate to 33 percent from 45 percent. Follini says the highest earners should be excluded from the cuts.
So, the story continues with Berlusconi looking more and more like a 'Billy No-Mates' with all of his 'friends' putting as much distance as possible between him and themselves. What he does next will be critical for his political future now, despite the remarkably strong support he has enjoyed from parts of southern Italy in the past as well as the public support that has been his because of his skillful media manipulation which has resulted in Italy being downgraded in a global survey of press and TV freedoms, to the same "partly free" class as Albania, Mongolia and Burkina Faso. Oh, to be a media mogul and a world ruler - why do I find myself suddenly humming the tune to "Goldfinger" now?