The Joys Of Europe

European madness appears to be rollicking its way across that continent of late as politicians vie and jostle for position amid their never-ending displays of vanity and political coquettishness.

Italy’s richest man and ex-premier, Silvio Burlusconi, had to swallow his pride – quite an achievement, even given the size of his mouth – when his second wife, Veronica, publicly accused him of “damaging her dignity” by flirting with a group of bellisima senorinas at a TV awards dinner. That she chose the publication, La Repubblica – a left wing paper critical of Berlusconi – to publicize her outrage was truly rubbing salt into the wound. Berlusconi apologized profusely to his wife, but only after the paper had gleefully splashed her demands all over their front page.

Just across the border in France, presidential election fever is rising as the Socialist candidate, Segolene Royal, demands the sacking of her main rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, whom she accuses of pulling “dirty tricks” to scuttle her chances in the election. Apparently, Sarkozy has used his position in the government to dig the dirt on the former head of Greenpeace France, Bruno Rebelle, now adviser to Segolene Royal on matters of the environment. Unfortunately for said lady, she has committed a few gaffs of her own in recent weeks by praising the Chinese justice system and calling for independence for Quebec. The Chinese hierarchy love her, but Canada’s not so keen.

While many may criticize the French, they can be eminently rational. A fine example of French commonsense is displayed in their present attitude to the new government ban on smoking in public places. One might expect these exponents of the Gaulloise and Gitanes to rise up in revolution at the very idea of authority displacing their major pleasure in the bars and cafes of gay Paris. Not at all. Seventy-five percent of the population has voiced its approval for the new law and even the most ardent of smokers admit it’s une bonne idée.

Meanwhile, across the English Channel, a furore (or, as they say in American – “furor”) still rages in the British parliament over large sums of money paid to the Labour Party in exchange for the title “Lord”, “Earl”, or possibly “M’lud”. Super-wealthy British businessmen, who love to swag about in ermine robes and fancy wigs, are it seems prepared to pay big for a seat in the parliament’s Upper Chamber, or “House of Lords”. The Labour Party appeared quite happy to take the cash and dish out the peerages, even though it is just a teensy-weensy bit illegal. So far, four people have been arrested, one of them twice. This was Lord Levy, the Labour Party’s chief fundraiser and a Middle East envoy, who was fingered by the police for a second time on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. It may well transpire that Lord Levy becomes Britain’s answer to Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Of course, Tony Blair is well and truly in the midst of this kerfuffal, and has himself on two occasions been the subject of police interrogation.

Today is a great day to be a Tory in Britain.

More on these stories: HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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