by Gabriele Bonafede
Most reliable Trump’s political friends on this side of the Atlantic are easy to recognise. They are Mr Boris Johnson of UK and Mr Giuseppe Conte of Italy (pictured in cover with Donald Trump). Both praising and being praised by Donald Trump while in office as PM of respective countries.
Both showed embarrassment when highlighting Trump’s role in inciting mob’s violence at Capitol Hill on January 6th 2021. Conte and Johnson share also a long history of trying to demonize EU.
Giuseppe Conte, Italian star of populist Five Stars Movement
Currently, Mr Giuseppe Conte is widely supported by Italians, despite being in trouble as PM in a new government crisis phase started a week ago. He has been PM of a theoretically pro-European cabinet from 5th September 2019 to 26th January 2021 . Yet, he served as PM of Italy also for a strongly anti-EU cabinet supported by Northern League of Mr Salvini from June 2018 to August 2019.
Mr Conte is still considering EU as closer to an “enemy” than a friendly union, or as an unfriendly partner at best. His cabinet is still filled with Eurosceptics, schizophrenic supporters of both Trump and Maduro, no-vax activists and pandemic deniers. This lot is keen in receiving EU Recovery Fund’s money without a detailed plan for implementation. He recently resigned, hoping to re-shuffle his tattered majority on this and other policy platform issues amid critics by a junior partner in his coalition, Mr Renzi’s Italia Viva (Living Italy).
Mr Conte – until June 2018 a lawyer with no previous experience in politics – is currently emerging as a populist star of Five Star Movement, a party that collected votes by publicising conspiracy theories and all varieties of fragmented extremism’s grievances.
He looks pretty much like the personified result of a populist propaganda based on fake news shared with extreme-right Italian parties such as Northern League and Fratelli d’Italia (FdI, Brothers of Italy, most of them nostalgic for fascism). Fakes have been found even in Mr Conte’s official CV, with no accountability whatsoever for his premiership, nor significative reaction from the Italian public.
Trump’s political friends: a toxic environment leading to Brexit and Italexit
After a one-year-long affair with Mr. Conte, Italian right-wing parties – currently at around 40% in opinion polls – are in the opposition benches of Italian Parliament. In fact, a large slice of the Five Stars Movement’s electorate has shifted to Northern League and FdI between 2018 and 2020. Yet, self-confirmed populist stances remain in Conte’s speeches and his ministers, supported by a coalition of populist Five Stars Movement, centre-left Democratic Party and other smaller political formations.
The whole lot of Conte’s right wing once-supporters and current Five Stars Movement mates look similar to UK Conservatives-turned-extremists and Trump’s GOP supporters. In March 2018 general elections the Five Stars Movement and Salvini’s Northern League (rebranded just “League”) succeeded in convincing more than a half of Italian voters. Their support remains high today. If we take all the three populist formations together – Five Stars, League and FdI – polls credit them with around 55-57% of voting intentions.
There is no doubt that Conte’s party has been successfully thriving in the same toxic environment as Trump’s GOP and Johnson’s Brexiteers. Not surprisingly, League, FdI and Conte’s Five Stars Movement have long been playing with the idea of “Italexit” – the Italian version of Brexit – and they still are.
Trump himself presented Conte at a White House press conference as a “new friend” (see video at the end of this article). Mr Johnson too has been labelled as “friend” by Trump. While Mr Salvini has been privately received by Trump, despite lacking an institutional role other than being a simple MP.
Two Trump’s political friends and one problem
Had 2020 US elections taken place in Italy, Trump would have probably won with a landslide – in reality and not only in conspiracy theory. Anti-Americanism and anti-liberalism – as well as a lack of knowledge about history basics – is on the rise in Italy. Many Italians don’t even know that Italy declared war to US on December 11th 1941 following Japan’s infamous attack on Pearl Harbour. They think it was the opposite, therefore condemning allied bombing on Italian cities in 1943-1945 as a “deliberate” and unjustified act of aggression. That’s one of the many fakes about history being circulated by Mr Conte’s and Mr Salvini’s supporters alike.
A leading Italian TV journalist, Mr Bruno Vespa, recently published a widely marketed revisionist book on Mussolini. The book tried to show the “good things” Mussolini achieved during his infamous dictatorship. A book obviously jammed with fakes, already debunked by more watchful journalists and historians.
Similar tales about history have been widely disseminated by revisionists in US and UK, especially by would-be Brexiteers “literate”.
Obviously, besides a Covid pandemic, there is a functional-illiteracy pandemic problem. This is particularly severe in countries led by Trump’s political friends. Not surprisingly, Mr Conte did not do much to improve schools’ quality, before and during pandemic. Widespread suspicion on science is definitely not a problem localized just in US or UK.
Appalling achievements of two Trump’s political friends
It comes not as a surprise either that both UK and Italy are showing the worst records on pandemic issues. In fact, fake news and widespread mistrust on science seem to be going hand-in-hand with pandemic progress.
Both UK and Italy post the highest rate of deaths per population among large countries. The third is US. Both countries show the deepest decrease in GDP for 2020 among OECD countries. Italy and UK are also very bad performers on other pandemic indexes, such as the number of health-care personnel succumbing to the virus.
In 2020 Italy was struck first among western countries by Covid pandemic thanks to the improvised and ineffective measures to avoid early virus circulation in the Peninsula. For two long months before the outbreak, Conte downplayed the possibility of an epidemic in Italy, utterly downsizing the danger – with appalling results.
That is exactly what Mr Trump and Mr Johnson did.
For long, Mr Conte’s government made no provisions even for basic interventions such as stockpiling masks and disinfectants. Yet, his governmental propaganda describes the Italian response to pandemic as “successful”. Again, similarity with Mr Trump and other Trump’s political fiends, such as Johnson, are striking.
Both Trump’s political friends on this side of the Atlantic should be removed, following their mentor’s fate. The sooner they go, the better for the citizens of UK and Italy. It is not an easy task as long as catastrophes are marketed as success stories by governments’ propaganda.
Here nice videos showing two Trump’s political friends:
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