The Italian referendum

The polls say Mr Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, will lose his referendum. He has been seeking a way to ensure that his party, whose Democrat party  polled just 25% of the vote in the last election, can form a majority government in  the Chamber of Deputies and not have to worry about the other parties or the Senate, which will be turned into an unelected chamber with little power.

The reason Italian politics is so unstable is the country is very split between a wide range of parties. Proportional representation increases the pressures to form more parties and run more extreme or pure policies through them. In 2013 the Grillo 5 Star party got the largest share of the vote by a very narrow margin over Renzi’s party, but the Democrats managed to form a centre left coalition. Frustrated by the compromises and limitations coalition imposes on trying to reform and govern, Mr Renzi has come up with a wide ranging  plan to change the way future elections are judged.

The biggest underlying cause of discontent with all the parties is probably the poor state of the Italian economy, with slow growth and mass unemployment,which has hit  the young especially hard. Italy’s state debts are far too high for EU rules, and Italy has to curb her deficit to show some willing under the Euro scheme. Italy has some weak banks struggling to handle bad loans and in need of additional capital.

Some argue that if Mr Renzi does lose over the week-end the way is open for Mr Grillo to take over at a subsequent election, which has to be held before May 2018 and may be earlier. Whilst Mr Grillo is critical of the austerity driven Euro policies, he and his supporters are not the same kind of Eurosceptic force as we see in the AFD in Germany or the NF in France. Whether the answer to the referendum is Yes or No, Italian politics is likely to remain volatile with no clear winner. The public will continue to protest against the consequences of Euro membership but that may not make them ready to want to leave it, as we saw with the people of Greece.

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96 Comments

  1. Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Another sober and considered view, which we genrally agree with.

    The caveat being that political uncertainty in the event of a No vote is precisely what Italy doesn’t need right now, as it struggles to deal with its massive debt and its banks’ €360 bn of non-performing loans – a staggering 18% of all Italian loans and which account for 1/3 of all NPLs in the Eurozone. (http://facts4eu.org/news_nov_2016.shtml#tangled_italian_spaghetti)

    A ‘No’ vote could put the Italian banks under even more pressure which would precipitate yet another crisis for the EU to deal with. It’s in the interests of the UK for the EU’s economies to improve their performance and we certainly wish them well with this.

    Best wishes, the Facts4EU.org Team
    http://facts4eu.org/news.shtml

    • Hope
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Let us remember the EU dictatorship threatened to bankrupt Italy if it did not change its PM. Therefore let us hope the Italian people give the current EU placeman Renzi and the EU the vote they deserve to help break up the EU and restore democracy to Italy. There is no place for this sort of EU dictatorship in the modern world. It needs to be consigned to history as a well meant idea but it failed because it was taken over by greed and power hungry individuals.

    • stred
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      I was amazed to read today in Facts4 > that the NI figures were not mentioned in the MSM news yesterday. The figures for net migration were given with migration from the EU at 189k and non-EU at 196k. However, the figures for NI registrations were EU at 629k and non-EU at 195k.

      Non EU match almost exactly but EU mismatch by a factor of 3.3!

      The figures given by the MSM were measured by interviewers at ports asking whether the person would be staying for more than one year. If the answers are assumed to be honest, many EU non-migrants would be staying for less than one year and going home once or more a year- something which many do. However, there is reason to believe that many registering for NI cards will be doing so because they will spend most of the time working and needing housing, health, transport and possibly education and child benefit.They may also return after a trip home.

      It appears that the only way to count migration properly is to copy the US system and order ready made counting and ID machines. This may be embarrassing if the figures given for EU workers normally resident but not counting under UN rules proves to be completely wrong.

      A link to the ONS report is on the Facts site >.

      • stred
        Posted December 3, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        I meant- the migration figures that were not mentioned in the MSM.

    • acorn
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      If only you had the first idea about what you pontificate.

      “In a latest balance sheet cleansing move, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (NYSE:RBS) and GE Capital have gotten rid of more than €2 billion of non-performing Italian corporate loans. The private equity firm, AnaCap, has agreed to purchase €1 billion worth of loans from both companies [likely for a large discount: acorn].

      RBS restructuring is picking up pace as these non-performing loans, originally bought from Italian banks, are no longer included on its balance sheet. The sold loans included secured and unsecured debts …”. (BFN News).

      Even so, RBS failed its latest BoE Regulator test.

  2. Peter VAN LEEUWEN
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    I don’t agree with the argument over propotional representation:
    The “winner takes all” election systems don’t make for democractic governments which carry out the voters’ will, but hand power to the largest minority party, in some cases overall power. The UK national elections are a striking example of that.
    Do the more proportional elections in the devolved UK parliaments give rise to more extreme policies? I don’t see that, even though proportional systems offer more choice to the voters. Proportional systems lead to compromises, which are needed to achieve what a majority of the voters want. Voters in proportional systems are prepared for the compromises needed afterwards and know that their vote is not wasted in so-called “safe seat” constituencies.

    • Hope
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      No need to worry what the U.K. Population does. Worry about Holland where your view might have some credibility.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Let me put a different perspective on proportional representation.
      Most of us voters care little about political parties. When it comes to the general election, we vote for the person, not the party. I for one much prefer the concept that the local MP represents the constituency first and the party second.
      Proportional representation is important only in the party politic mindset, under the delusion that the party matters.

      • Peter VAN LEEUWEN
        Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        @Dave Andrews: A local MP may represent a constituency on “local” issues and e.g. put a question about Staffordshire hospital at PMQ. But he/she cannot properly represent on national or international issues in which the constituents are naturally divided. How is Bill Cash going to represent the Europhiles in his constituency, or Tim Farron the Brexiteers – totally impossible! If you like the concept of a local MP, why not reform using the example of the Scottish (devolved) parliament and achieve better proportional representation at the same time?

    • Jools B
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely. A classic example is the last general election when UKIP managed to get 4 millions votes yet only one MP, more votes than the Lib Dums, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens put together and look how many MPs they got in return. FPTP is a stitch up between the Conservatives and Labour which is why we shouldn’t expect to see any changes to the current system any time soon. Democracy, ie. accountability and fair representation come a very poor second to what’s in the best interest of our self serving MPs.

    • hefner
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Furthermore, given that MPs act as “representatives” and not “delegates” of the voters in their constituencies, they can always take the view that they vote this or that according to their “conscience”. But during an election, it is rather impossible to have a sitting MP (like JR for example) to tell you precisely what can be expected from his “conscience” on topics like, for example, assisted suicide, application of the Vickers report, renewables, Heathrow third runway, …
      This plus the FPTP voting system makes the system hardly democratic as, I guess, most people would prefer to have it.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      Under your EU proportional representation @Peter those MEPs who left UKIP have retained their seats in the EU parliament as they would have under FPTP.

      How is that more democratic?

  3. Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    So for once “Italian government falls” will be news!

  4. alan jutson
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    From what you describe, both the Italians, the Greeks and many others.

    “Want their cake and to eat it”

    Because it would seem they want the benefits of financial subsidy from the EU (Germany and other net contributors) without many of the financial constraints on spending/living standards.

    Seems like the EU bakers will be busy shortly, with one type of cake for us, and another with different ingredients for others.

  5. Mark B
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Italy’s divisions go far further than just politics. There is also a social, economic and geographical divides which makes a ‘new’ country like Italy so difficult to govern. I am sure, Mr.Renzi looks to our system with some envy. We have a very, and in my view over-powerful executive. A compliant legislature and an almost toothless Upper-Chamber. He clearly thinks that by having as much power over his government he can resolve Italy’s problems – not so !

    It is the EU and the EURO that is at the heart of all this. As we in the UK found out with the ERM, you cannot have two or more large and disproportionate economies sharing both the same currency and economic policies, such as spending and interest rates, without internal currency movements to poorer parts to balance things out.

    Italy also needs to reform its own internal markets and increase competition. On the continent there is far too much regulation which increases costs and stifles competition.

    I hope he loses and doesn’t do a CMD where he says one thing and then shamelessly does another.

    Fun times ! 🙂

    • Hope
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Today, express, we read that Cameron told a barefaced lie over EVEL and sold the public a pup which was evidenced by SNP voting against trading on Sunday in England and Wales.

      When do we get an English parliament? Or a proper EVEL?

  6. Ian Wragg
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Yet another attempt to upset the establishment. I love to hear political commentators refer to the new order as populism.
    It’s used as a derogatory phrase against the masses who are starting to rebel against the lying cheating ruling class.
    Let’s hope Renzi loses so we have another nail in the EU coffin.

    • Hope
      Posted December 3, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Interesting article by Italian reporter who thinks Italy will be used as a sacrifice to warn U.K. and France of Diseubedience!

  7. Lifelogic
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    The attitude of the average Italian is that all politicians are much the same, the just want your money and in it for themselves and not to be trusted.

    The system there is indeed very poor and you nearly always end up with coalitions. Thanks goodness the british sensibly chose to keep the FPTP system that at least provides majority and more decisive government.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      A shame that Zak is giving away Cameron’s tiny majority away (won for him by the SNP and tomb stone Ed despite Cameron lefty greencrap, pro EU, agenda). Zak was always a rather foolish choice by Cameron. He was unable even to beat the very weak Sadiq Khan for London Mayor. Why did he resign and why was he allowed to without putting up a real Conservative put up for the job.

      It seems that new Libdem MP Sarah Olney is an english graduate and Gilbert & Sullivan enthusiast, so I suppose she should find the commons very entertaining.

      It seems she was a state sector accountant so hopefully she realises how inefficient and wasteful the state sector is. She is also married to a town planner so that should inform her of the absurdities and damage done by the UK planning system. Then again the fact that she joined the Libdim does not inspire confidence at all.

    • Mark B
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      LL

      Not in 2010. And in Scotland they have both PR and a majority SNP government. Something that Labour thought would never happen.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted December 3, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        In 2010 that was due to Cameron ratting on his Cast Iron Promise and being essentially a fake green, lefty LibDim pretending to be a Tory EUsceptic.

  8. Margaret
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Whilst they are dependent they have to stay. It is a battered wife syndrome en masse.

    • Mark B
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Good analogy.

  9. agricola
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Italy, as your four paragraphs suggest , is a mess and therefore vulnerable to any movement that comes along with a solution, real or supposed.

    My gut feeling is that she would be better off outside the Euro and in control of her own economy. I am well aware that her past perpetual devaluations did not look good, but she survived. Who is to say that it is any worse than our programme of money printing and enormous debt

    I can accept your dig at proportional representation and it’s downside. However a lack of fairness in our system that allows 56 vociferous, repetitious Scots representing something over one million voters to take precedence over four plus million UKIP voters with one representative is not good for democracy. We really need to think this through and come up with something better.

    • Mark B
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      Or a regional parliament which represents just 4 million voters holding the 50+ million voters to ransom over BREXIT.

  10. Peter Wood
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Good Morning,

    Just two observations:

    1) Can we hope a NO vote will be another shot into the fetid body of the EU?
    2) Does any Italian vote matter… the EU insufferables have already demonstrated they are prepared to suspend democratic results when it suits them, indeed they prefer no democratic activity at all!

  11. Tedgo
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Off topic

    I see the Lib Dems Sarah Olney won the by-election.

    Interestingly she won with 48.8% of the vote, that is 51.2% voted against her. Her win represents 26.1% of the electorate.

    I think we should re-run the by-election.

    • Tedgo
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, slight dyslexia entered in to my calculations, the figures should be 49.7% for Sarah Olney, 50.3% against and 26.6% of the electorate.

    • ian wragg
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Exactly, I heard the idiot Farron on the radio saying this was a vote against Brexit. If that’s the case then Brexit still wins on the majority portion of the vote.
      maybe they electorate will start a judicial review and ask for the result to be quashed and another election run.

    • DaveM
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      I think so too. I don’t think the voters knew what they were voting for. Will Goldsmith be hanging around as the MP until he’s ready to go? I might go to the high court to suggest that Parliament should vote on whether she can take her seat.

    • Mark B
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      I agree. We should all write to the Leader of the Lib Dems to tell them such. But I don’t know who she / he is.

  12. Bert Young
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    In the early 60’s I spent a fair amount of time in Italy attempting to introduce various large organisations to them . At the time there were all sorts of incentives for this sort of development – grants , taxation holidays etc ; it was also the time when expansion into Europe was appealing . My negotiations were with the leaders of Italian businesses , their Banks and their Financial advisers . It was always very arduous to penetrate to the “truth” and financial health of the Italian companies – at least 3 types of accounts and balance sheets existed . On the “first” meeting occasion everything was rosy and successful but , on deeper examination and probing , this was more often than not the case . Corruption was rife .

    It was a natural and permitted system from the North to the South of Italy – a reflection of Italian “laissez faire” ; eventually deals were cemented only through very difficult and prolonged circumstances . My belief is still that Italy – in common with some other Southern European countries , all persist in a business behaviour manner very different to ours ; the discipline , training and reliability factors simply are not there .

    Italy will not and cannot change its character ; it is a wonderful place to visit and its people warm hearted and good fun company ; beyond that – beware !.

  13. Graham
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Sorry JR but let’s get some impetus into our own leaving effort before bothering about others,

    I’m fearing that our leaving will fail through ennui encouraged by politicians.

  14. alan jutson
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    off topic

    I see Zac Goldsmith has now paid the price for being rather petulant.

    Trying to stand as a Eurosceptic independent in a constituency which voted by a large majority in the referendum to Remain.

    In addition standing against Heathrow expansion when any new flight path to the proposed third runway would be to the north (over Kew and Brentford) of his constituency boundary area.

    Given the circumstances it was no wonder the Lib Dems won, but they in turn do not have much to crow about as the margin was rather smaller than the referendum campaign result.

    Sadly now one less Eurosceptic in the Commons to fight for our freedom.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 3, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      He was rather foolish and perhaps the Tories were foolish to agree to let him stand unopposed. Had they not done so he might not have petulantly resigned.

  15. Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Italy is certainly a prime example of the dangers of proportional representation. As you say, a ‘No’ vote in this referendum is unlikely to be a catalyst for any sort of final resolution of Italy’s current unfortunate position, but it cannot be too long before a banking collapse in Italy precipitates some kind of moment of truth with the ECB and it must be likely that whatever government is in power at the time, will take an action unilaterally that compromises the country’s position in the Euro. I suspect that membership of the Euro is not so popular in Italy as membership of the EU and that the technical inability to leave the former without departing from the latter is not fully appreciated by the electorate. It is also very easy for any politician minded to do so to make the case that leaving the Euro, despite the initial chaos, is a clear (and perhaps the only) way to mend Italy’s economy given its weak political system, in a reasonable time frame without causing the sort of misery the EU imposed on Greece.
    Italy is a very different proposition to Greece; its economy is much bigger and more industrialised, and its loss would be far more dangerous for the Euro, but it also has huge potential to recover with a lower currency exchange rate. I think that a loss of the referendum will shake the rafters but the banks are the key to the foundations.

  16. Antisthenes
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The problem with the euro-zone is that it is effectively a shared bank account. Which has in the past allowed spendthrift governments to play fast and footloose with the borrowing opportunities that has allowed . It naturally lead to a crisis and a break was applied and fiscal discipline was enforced. At that point most should have left the euro-zone and accepted the short term pain. They did not counting on the fact the break would one day be released again and that their debts if they held out long enough would be relived by the collective. Time will tell which side will blink first the likes of Greece and Italy who will decouple from the euro or the likes of Germany who will pay up. At the moment it appears the latter is losing as the ECB is effecting bail out after bail out and must continue to do so if the EU is not to fall apart.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 3, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      “The problem with the euro-zone is that it is effectively a shared bank account.”

      Indeed and this is also alas the problem with government in general. When the state borrows and then waste it (as they invariably do) they are borrowing off the backs of their subjects and future subjects. They are also damaging the ability of individuals private sector to borrow for real investments.

  17. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Off-topic:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/01/stop-brexit-remainers

    “It won’t be easy to stop Brexit. But here are four ways to do it”

    “Chip away, every day. This is a long game but, as harsh reality bites, time will be on the side of the remainers.”

    “It could be that Brexit will be slowed by the supreme court’s ruling, due in January. But that’s just the start. Opponents of Brexit should settle in. Time is on their side.”

    http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN00675

    “… the Lords have power to delay enactment of a public bill until the session after that in which it was first introduced and until at least 13 months have elapsed from the date of second reading in the Commons in the first session.”

    • Anonymous
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      We are not leaving the EU.

    • Peter VAN LEEUWEN
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      @Denis: Delay doesn’t mean Brexit won’t happen. It will make it likelier though, that a negotiation result will have to go through new UK general elections to be final.

    • acorn
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Denis, Mrs May is depending on it. She has to get the Article 50 two year timeout, the other side of the 2020 General Election.

    • Mark B
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      The plan, as I have always suspected, is to delay long enough for a new treaty to be ready to negotiate. In it will be some sort of, Associate EU Membership. In the EU but not Euro or Schengen. It will be played as the deal of the century like Maastricht and the political class will pass it through.

      Yes, as Anonymous said, “We are not leaving.”

    • Stephen Berry
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      “It could be that Brexit will be slowed by the supreme court’s ruling, due in January. But that’s just the start. Opponents of Brexit should settle in. Time is on their side.”

      I once argued with a left-winger who tried to convince me that the miner’s strike of 1984 had ended in a victory for the miners. People say the most extraordinary things, especially in The Guardian.

      Time is most definitely not on the side of the opponents of Brexit. Barely a month goes past without some new blow for the Remainers. It’s almost becoming boring to see all their economic forecasts being proved spectacularly wrong. Then there was the small matter of the election of a U.S. President who took Brexit as the model for his campaign.

      Everyone now expects trouble for the EU coming from the direction of Italy and we must not forget Norbert Hofer in Austria. Some of us have never doubted since June 23rd that the UK would leave the EU. What we are now wondering is whether there will still be an EU for the UK to exit from.

  18. Mitchel
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I was surprised to see that doyenne of the Europhile press,The Economist,arguing for a NO vote in this referendum until I turned the page and saw it’s reasoning :-

    “The risk of Mr Renzi’s scheme is that the main beneficiary will be Beppe Grillo,a former comedian and leader of the Five Star Movement,a discombobulated coalition that calls for a referendum on leaving the Euro.It is running just a few points below Mr Renzi in the polls and recently won control of Rome and Turin.The spectre of My Grillo as PM, elected by a minority and cemented into power by Mr Renzi’s reforms,is one many Italians-and much of Europe will find troubling”

  19. acorn
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Even next door’s dog knows that Portugal; Spain; Italy and Greece should jointly get out of the Euro currency, or at least threaten it; but they won’t! The ECB Balance Sheet, has been bank-rolling insolvent Italian – and other – Banks since 2011. Fortunately, Mr Draghi appointed himself Chancellor of the EU Exchequer as well as ECB Governor and proceeded to throw the Treaty rules on bailouts, out the window.

    Anyway, I would be more concerned about the Richmond Park By-election result, if I were you JR. It looks like we are back to three political parties again namely; Conservative; UKIP and the Progressive Alliance. Anyone want to bet a certain Mr Blair could turn up in the last one?

  20. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Failure not get on with Brexit has cost the Tories a seat. The first heavy line could have been drawn under the Referendum result on June 24th by signing Article 50.

    • Chris
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      I agree, CH, completely. The dithering by May led to a dangerous political vacuum which opponents of Brexit raced to exploit, and successfully. May has only herself to blame, if she is in fact bothered by the current situation (and that is not a given, I fear).

      • John Archer
        Posted December 3, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        No problem. May could sign it now.

        Cite Brown and claim it to be “just a post-Lisbon tidying-up exercise”.

  21. oldtimer
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    It seems that Mr Renzi has not helped himself by stating that he will resign if he loses the referendum. This has helped change the question (in voters minds) from being solely about the constitution to a vote of confidence in him and his government.

    If he does lose the vote it will add a tipper load of trouble for the Italian banking system to be added to the relative basket case of refinancing Greek debt (due sometime this month I believe). It will also add strength to those in the Italian opposition who want Italy to exit the euro.

  22. Prigger
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    “Whilst Mr Grillo is critical of the austerity driven Euro policies, he and his supporters are not the same kind of Eurosceptic force as we see in the AFD in Germany or the NF in France.”

    Easy for non-Italians to be bemused with Italian politics. A decisive government of whatever hue has always been what Italy needs.Italians know this is true. They cannot suddenly form a cohort of view, however.
    Any suggested adjustment to the Proportional Representation system is seen as a threat to democracy.

    You can see something similar happening in the UK. Mrs May could very well lead the Conservative Party to electoral defeat and the implementation of a form of proportional representation. The failure of the Tory Party through Mr Cameron to sign Article 50 on 24th June which he promised and “we will be out of the EU, out of the single market” will possibly go down as the one thing which destroyed the Tory Party for all time.
    No pity can be felt for the Conservative Party. It was the author through Cameron and is, the authoress through May, of its demise. Suicide by atrophy.
    Get out of the EU now!

  23. rose
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    If Signor Renzi comes a cropper, won’t the EU impose a new PM, one of their “technocrats”? If the EU thought there were any danger of a new administration even flirting with the idea of going back to the lira they would surely prevent that as they did with Berlusconi. Berlusconi was the last properly elected PM, wasn’t he?

  24. DaveM
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    So, in summary then, we have a country which has regional differences arguably more defined and hostile to each other than in the UK. A country whose economy has actually fallen out of the basket. Youth unemployment levels nearing 40%. A population in such despair that it won’t reproduce (despite Italian families being legendary for their size). A government which is effectively facilitating the invasion and takeover of their own country via free water taxis from Libya. A central and local government and business sector (and even the Vatican possibly) which has been more than just infiltrated by organised crime. And a PM who is seeking to make his party effectively totalitarian so he can impose the will of Brussels with no opposition even though it is the Euro and the EU which seems to be causing most of the problems.

    And how many members of your party want to stay in a club where Italy is not even the worst case??!!!

    If May, Hammond, etc were true Europeans in spirit, they’d be trying to help Italy unilaterally, not doing everything via the Brussels bureaucracy which is making things worse. As we frequently say here, we love Europe and like the Europeans. So why are our politicians so desperate to prop up the very establishment which is tearing the continent to pieces?

  25. ian
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    If the vote goes the wrong way, just have a reruns still they get it right.

  26. Mike Wilson
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Proportional representation increases the pressures to form more parties

    Whereas first past the post leaves us with a choice of Labour or Conservative governments who, between them, by the time we get to 2020 will have heaped a debt of £2,000,000,000,000 on the shoulders of future generations

    When you put a 2 with twelve zeroes after it, it doesn’t look too bad. But it is 2 million, million pounds. If you repay the capital at 10 thousand, million pounds a year – a large amount, it will take 200 years to pay back.

    And, this, I think our host suggests is the best our political system can come up. Labour then Tory, Tory then Labour taking Buggin’s turn with power.

    Maybe if we had PR we could have enough MPs from various parties who would all agree that it is immoral to borrow to fund day to day spending by the government. Borrowing to invest in infrastructure is one thing. Borrowing to pay the bills is another.

  27. Mick
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Off topic, I wasn’t going to comment on the by-election in Richmond but I’m pretty fed up of the news channels saying that this a historic result, what a load of tosh, we’ve had to listen to the likes of Tim what’s his name and clogg saying it’s a great result NO it wasn’t you didn’t have the Tories to fight against, come a general election I can only hope the lib-undemocratic party are wipeout completely, I also saw that Pitney guy from the people’s challenge on sky news being interviewed by Bolton, what a easy ride this Pitney muppet was given not like the taken to pieces he was given by Mr Neil on the daily politics a few weeks back

  28. David
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    “The reason Italian politics is so unstable is the country is very split between a wide range of parties. Proportional representation increases the pressures to form more parties and run more extreme or pure policies through them. ”
    Germany, Switzerland have PR and their politics are quite stable. PR comes in many flavours not just the Italian one.

    Reply Germany also now has unstable politics as we are about to see

    • rose
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      And Germany was for years dictated to by the most unpopular party: they decided when the government fell and what sort of government was formed; they decided which posts they wanted in the administration. Of course Ms Lucas and the Liberals would like this power which is why they are asking for it.

  29. ian
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Looks like major blow to brexit at by-election last night, zac trying to say that he independent MP with half the con party running around his area saying vote for zac he is independent, zac would of done better just sitting doors, his dad would not made that mistake, in fact he would not of join the con party, he would done it on his own, his father was always a independent man.

    As for the con party getting back into gov in 2020 very slim now, libs set up for 20 to 50 seats now, coalition at best for con party, it will hard to get the con party off the fence now to do anything in case they make a wrong move, there will be lot more spending now to try to stay in power.

    • Edward2
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      What an odd post of yours ian

      Tories are currently 16 points ahead in various polls
      Equivalent to a 100 plus majority.

      Richmond is a traditional Lib Dem constituency and it has simply reverted to type.

      • rose
        Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        And in a general election the liberals couldn’t blitz every constituency with propaganda and personal visits as they have this one.

  30. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Italy would have some chance of stability if it went for first-past-the-post elections.

    One of the reasons that I want to put clear blue water between us and the EU is that I am not sure that Italy can solve its financial problems under current EU rules and customs.

    Every year, Italy has a ‘structural surplus’ on its State spending, but interest on its debts takes it into negative territory, so that its State debt keeps increasing. There is also a reluctance for its zombie banks to write off bad loans because some would go broke.

    M. Draghi at the ECB keeps trying to get permission for the ECB to buy up some Italian debt via Eurobonds, but Germany keeps saying ‘No’. Not a happy situation.

    In theory, a lot of austerity could overcome Italy’s annual deficit, but there are such things as elections. After all, our own Chancellor has just embraced fiscal incontinence.

  31. Any Voter
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Labour, LibDem, Green ,UKIP parties posed insignificant to zero threat to the Tory Party after 23rd June.
    Article 50 was due to be signed on 24th June as the very first relatively innocuous clerical stage in leaving the EU and the single market, as promised emphatically by the Tory Party.

    The Tory Party election strategists better get their thinking caps on. You’ve just been trounced by pathetic LibDems. Anyone with a feather and the strength of a sick budgerigar can vote you out.
    Try stop talking about grammar schools, any further delay in Brexit, the installation of free slides and swings for every home owner with female spouses fat of stomach and glint of eye, and leave the EU yesterday!

  32. Peter Parsons
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The problems the Italians have are nothing to do with Proportional Representation, they are down to the Italian constitution’s unique adoption of perfect bicameralism where neither the Senate nor the Chamber of Deputies have primacy (i.e. they have no equivalent of the UK’s Parliament Act), and no legislation can pass unless it goes through both houses unmodified.

    A move to First Past The Post won’t change that. For example, if the Italians had a FPTP system that delivered the Democrats a majority in the Senate and the Five Star Movement a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the same impasses are likely to occur as today as legislation would still end up being passed back and forwards between the two houses.

    It is the bimercalism aspect which creates the problems in Italy, not PR. You only have to look at the issues which occur regularly in the USA to see this. The USA uses FPTP with bimercalism and impasses are common there too.

  33. HahahArrr
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    “It was a one-off”; “there were specific local considerations not characteristic of the country as a whole”; ” the winning party threw everything and the kitchen sink at it “; ” the majority of the voters were Remainers and had very sore bottoms”; ” the beaten candidate was seen as betraying our Party”; ” bi-elections are no sign of anything really” “Anyway we never fielded a proper Conservative candidate so how could we have lost ( giggle puerily )
    Yes The Tory Party was thoroughly comprehensively beaten into a cocked hat. That could never have happened if the PM possessed leadership skills, was perceived as strong, had a successful record in the Home Office, was charismatic, and if she had signed Brexit Article 50 on June 24.

    Reply The Conservative party did not field a candidate and did not participate in the election.

  34. Lifelogic
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I can well understand why the voter of Richmond were a bit irritated by Zac Goldsmith resigning after just over a year in a rather childish fit of peak over Heathrow why did he make his promise in the first place? Misguided green reasons probably, does he fly much?

    Then he tries to reduce the bye election to the sole issue of Heathrow. Perhaps not we can finally get on with it.

    Gatwick would be the better one to build first as it would be far quicker, but bother are needed so get on with them both please. as soon as possible.

    • stred
      Posted December 3, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Mrs May seems to have made another mistake by not choosing the cheaper and quicker option of Gatwick and losing two votes for brexit. It should have been obvious that the voters of Richmond are by in large a Guardian reading flock of Remoaners. Only last week one of them was on the radio complaining that their view of St Pauls from Richmond Hill was being ruined by a new skyscraper and he wanted the planners to stop it half way up. This may have been understandable, but he was talking about a building in Stratford on the other side of St Pauls. If they can be like this over a view, imagine what the opportunity to show ignorant folk who voted Leave who is right.

      We really need two runways and a sensible move by the government would be to economise and build an extra one at Heathrow. This way the Richmond Libdums would be taught a lesson and the constituency around Gatwick would be pleased. Conservatives may as well write off Richmond at the next election.

  35. ServesYouRight
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    “The polls say Mr Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, will lose his referendum”
    That will teach him not to listen to the advice of Tory Party Central Office on how to win votes. I hear Renzi supporters are throwing their arms about and asking in frustration “Who are the Lib Dems?????”

  36. Mrs May to go.
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    JR, you must realise of course that if a Labour MP with a gigantic majority, on a matter of principle, which the vast majority of his constituents applauded, resigned from the Labour Party and fought as an Independent and the Labour Party refused to field a candidate against him, yet he lost convincingly against the weakest of political parties, that the media and the whole of the Tory Party and nearly all of the PLP would say CORBYN!!! Get rid of him!! He is an electoral disaster!! Quite rightly. It would stick out like a sore thumb.

    You may look at Mrs May’s PM-ship in this light. Get a proper, STRONG leader early in the electoral cycle or even you JR could face defeat by some party other.

  37. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Populations abhor change. The Italians will not vote to leave the Euro as they are scared of the consequences. Did any country actually vote for the Euro or was it imposed as part of Maastricht

    That is why the votes for leaving the EU and Trump were so seismic. Populations were so fed up they voted to try something different.

  38. Bryan Harris
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Proportional Representation is the key factor here and why Italy has had so many governments in recent years. They keep fiddling with their version of PR but the bottom line is that it creates wobbly governments, none with a clear mandate or authority.

    IMVHO it is a tool of the EU to ensure national governments are not troublesome, and for just these reasons we should avoid adopting it in the UK.

    Italy will never have firm appropriate government until it ditches PR along with the EU.

    • Peter Parsons
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Not true. See my explanation above as to why. PR is not the cause of Italy’s problems and a simple move to FPTP while retaining all the other elements of their current system wouldn’t fix the problems either.

  39. ian
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I can see article 50 going ahead but after that it will be soft pedalling most of the way and at the end of day people will wonder what it was all for, they have got the internet bill pasted so they will try not have any more votes in parliament unless other parties give the green light so parliament will switch now to brexit and talk about hard or soft, we all know that soft brexit as they call it will have 480 PMs for, even BJ and DD are now talking soft.

  40. ian
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Yes we all know what a hard brexit is john but can you tell us what a soft brexit is or is that something that will come out of parliament after majority of MPs who are for staying have defined.

    • Anonymous
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Soft Brexit = Remain in all but name

  41. Anonymous
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    We are not leaving the EU.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      I suspect you are right under T May and P Hammond. I do not think they are up to the job, even if they are trying to leave and I am not sure that they are even trying.

      They are more like Ed Miliband than real Tories anyway.

  42. Democrat
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    The victorious LibDem MP in the bi-election says , as on TV,she is going to vote against any move made in the Commons to sign Article 50 in order to thwart the democratic will of the British people, because she disagrees with the British people. In a proper Parliament she would be refused admission. In a proper democracy she would not have been allowed to be a candidate. Her application would have been proscribed as would the Party which supported her nomination.
    The LibDems are setting a dangerous precedent. It could have consequences which they are intelligent enough to know. But they just….. do…… not …..care!

  43. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    The LibDems in Richmond Park have placed a complaint to the Electoral Commission and are campaigning against the result of the recent bi-election on the grounds that nearly 50% of those who voted plus the ones of those who didn’t vote for anyone is greater than the total votes of the winner and are demanding another bi-election. Furthermore, it was a very short campapaign and the electorate did not have the issues fully explained to them and…and..and ad nauseam…
    Naaa, only kidding. The LibDems are not really honest

    • MickN
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      I used to feel sorry for the people living in that area facing the prospect of an extra runway at Heathrow. Now I rather hope they get three!!

    • Excalibur
      Posted December 3, 2016 at 5:59 am | Permalink

      Nice one, Christopher. They should be sent to Lincolnshire to pick vegetables for the rest of their lives……

  44. Good Deed
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    In your prosperity not austerity blog post Chris S seems to be asking you to delete a post. Have no idea what its about as it didn’t interest me, but I hate to think of someone desperately wanting something unwritten.

  45. ian
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Hello Mr Edwards, yes a head in the polls last week, well a lot can happen in a week and by the next election the con party could be a minority gov and that’s if they last that long, as far as i can see only the liberals are singing from same sheet, the liberals in the con party have now got the upper hand and labour can come with last minute run if they get it right but with ukip looking to pick up labour seats up north and with only 600 seats to fight for it’s big ask for labour but if JC get it right who knows he might not lose any more seats and the vote could go blow 60% again which is good for the liberals, the con party rely on a high turn out at the polls and with new blood come in to politic by way of independents its going to be a real fight for seats, i call the result on the liberals the before the election of 6 to 8 seats and on the night of the election i said 330 and one for the nose which 331 and told i would win by a nose 6 weeks before the election and after the election i said i only elected the con party so i could take them apart at next election, debt out of control, more people still coming in out side of the EU than in, brexit is all over the place, 200,00 homeless, 2 million temp homes, wheres the good news to win a election, can’t afford a vote in parliament unless the rest say it ok.

  46. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    CNN stated in a derogatory manner as is their wont,that Fidel Castro is the only person the Cubans have ever known as Head of State.
    Actually HM The Queen has been my Head of State for all my life including the time I was in the womb without any crossword puzzles to relieve my boredom.
    My only complaint , no really, against Her Majesty is that she rather selfishly grows older in-your-face day-by-day. You really can’t get the staff when it comes to having a Head of State can you?

  47. Christine Constable
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    John I wondered if you had any considered opinion on the devastating result in Richmond for Goldsmith. Clearly the Tories were putting themselves in a weak position and allowed all kinds of “messages” to be sent to the Government following the vote. Perhaps the biggest message is that Goldsmith was a self indulgent individual who wasted everyone’s time and taxpayer expense proving a point. At the moment Rome is burning and we don’t need petty demonstrations of self importance and I believe Goldsmith was punished for it – to lose a 20,000 majority says an awful lot. However, there is a more important point – apart from your good self it is almost impossible to enable the public to voice their concerns publicly about Government policy, with the media so sewn up and Politicians only accepting comments from their own constituents. For myself living in North Norfolk I have the pretty disasterous option of putting nay views I may have to the much beleaguered Norman Lamb (whom I distrust completely). If the Conservatives want to avoid stoking up frustration amongst the the much ignored electorate, a really useful initiative would be a Conservative “IDEAS LAB” where practical ideas could be fed into the party machine to help develop policy. Developing policy with no end user input is and always has been a disaster – can’t the Conservatives come into the modern world and do something original???

    Thanks JOhn keep up the good work – and I hope Matteo Renzi is unemployed on Monday morning, not that I have anything against him I guess he is trying his best, but he is siding with Europe in their punishment of the UK and (frankly) a rejection of Renzi’s proposal is another win for the so called populists and given Goldsmith’s own goal yesterday – we need another WIN for the people.

  48. BellaItaly
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Read all the tedious Guardian posts under your article.
    God it was boring ( the comments that is )
    You should take heart that you’re attracting almost as much bile as Farage and Trump from the venomous opposition to anti globalisation.
    ciao

  49. Bella Italy
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    leave out anti.
    So angry am incoherent. I mean the vile slugs that want a one world government ruled by an undemocratic elite.
    Why cant everyone see it ?

  50. ian
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    If anyone can tell me what the con party have done for 6.1/2 years apart from a referendum that has all gone wrong please let me know, EVEL, all hot air does not work, if any one thinks they have a chance of winning the next election must be dreaming just look at their record which media will be pointing out all the time, it a total mess and they say look at labour and JC extra spending of 100 billion, well since he said that the con party has put up spending by over 30 billion so far and with 4 more budget to go another 50 to 60 billion will go on so JC 100 billion is already on course for 100 billion extra a year by the next election.

  51. Original Richard
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    “Proportional representation increases the pressures to form more parties and run more extreme or pure policies through them.”

    Proportional representation has this problem plus the lack of connection between the elected politicians and their constituencies.

    On the other hand, FPTP is not working democratically either as can be shown by the fact that millions of votes are completely wasted and millions of voters have no representative MP.

    And even worse can provide the incorrect result when votes are split between two parties with a particular similar policy and a third party, which does not represent the view of the electorate, wins as a result.

    Hence the sense of AV (Alternative Vote), a system used in many elections, including for the election of Police Commisioners.

  52. PMenta
    Posted December 3, 2016 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    The result of the Sleaford and North Hykeham bi-election on 8th December 2016 placed alongside the recent Richmond Park result should provide an inkling of how Mrs May is doing as PM . Remembering of course that the other parties standing are perceived as led by weak people, silly people, and UKIP has a whole has an internal attitude problem.
    The beginning of the New Year should be the right time for Mrs May to go after a few “leaks” saying she is contemplating resigning during the Christmas period. Of course the Tory Parliamentary Party will choose the wrong one again just to maintain its ridiculous consistency which is that of a small jar of rancid piccalilli and chopped gherkins

  53. Tweetypie
    Posted December 3, 2016 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Two tweets paint an odd picture of our world.

    “Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump 17m minutes ago
    The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!

    “The Indian Express ‏@IndianExpress 51m minutes ago
    Donald Trump speaks with Taiwan’s president, risking China tensions
    http://indianexpress.com/article/world/world-news/donald-trump-speaks-with-taiwans-president-risking-china-tensions-4407973/ …”

  54. Rupert Bear
    Posted December 3, 2016 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    Canadian outbreak of bovine TB
    Well there is an American badger. Not sure if there is a Canadian one. But no-one in Canada is attributing bovine TB with anything other than cattle infecting cattle through their droppings , infecting soil , and their breath and other exhalations infecting other cattle. It seems it can lay dormant in cattle until,they become old.
    I hope farmers in England will not need to cull their cattle to stop Bovine TB spreading to the badger population.Oh and cats.
    Do farmers have a method of sterilising the land, grass etc infected with Bovine TB? Never heard it mentioned on the BBC . They just seem to go badger hunting outside the infected area.but never inspect farm yard cats on rat and mouse patrol. Do cats bury their whoopsies in any particular places apart from my lawn?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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