“Renzi, we simply do not trust you . . .” “Beppe, why don’t you step out of your blog for a moment . . .”
It is not often we get to see and hear on live television “behind-closed-doors” negotiations for the formation of a new government. However, it is not often a protest movement with 25 per cent of the national vote earns itself the right to sit at that government-making table.
That was what happened yesterday when the leader of the Five-Star Movement (M5S) , Beppe Grillo, sat down face to face with Italian prime minister in waiting, Matteo Renzi. In reality, Mr Grillo had not wanted to take part but, following an online vote by the M5S faithful, he found himself forced into what he termed a "farce".
Part of the M5S credo is that events like this should, when possible, be carried live on the web. So, yesterday we were treated to a lively exchange between the two, an exchange dominated by a total inability to communicate or negotiate.
Mr Renzi opened up by saying he was not looking for any “old-style” agreements from the M5S, he just wanted to outline his government programme. No problem, replied Mr Grillo, we have no intention of coming to any agreement with you, old-style or new-style: “Look here, lad, I’m not trying to provoke you . . . You’ve gone along with Verdini [Berlusconi adviser] in order to change the electoral law. You’re a good person, but you represent a rotten system . . . You’re just a young old man and nothing that you say is credible because you represent the banks and occult powers . . .”
As the exchange moved along, the negotiation began to look like a farce. Having been talked down by the voluble Mr Grillo, the normally unstoppable Mr Renzi became exasperated, saying to Mr Grillo in a frustrated tone:
“Ah come on, Beppe, you’ve never been a democrat, so why don’t you step out of your blog for a moment, out of this streaming . . . We’re talking here about people’s pain.”
Dialogue vs destruction
After his encounter with Mr Renzi, the volcanic Mr Grillo turned to the media, telling the journalists outside they were all Dead Men Walking, adding that if Italy was in serious difficulty, then part of the problem was the lack of an effective, free press. He said he had no interest in dialogue with a system he wants to destroy.
Mr Renzi joked with reporters that they should all have paid to watch the show. He also said he hopes to have his government formed, sworn in and ready to face its first vote of confidence in parliament by next Monday.