Howard Dean Inspired Grillo Aiming to Make a Splash in Italy

Did you know Italy is having a general election? No? Neither did I.

Several years ago, before my computer crashed, I used to have Beppe Grillo’s Blog on my Bookmarks bar and check in on a regular basis. Then I forgot to the point that when I remembered I had to ask Google about an Italian recycling guru. And then, all of a sudden, a hit. Beppe Grillo has put together a slate of candidates for this weekend’s Italian election and The Guardian is running stories with headlines like

Is Beppe Grillo the bogeyman a disaster waiting to happen, or can his activist army heal Italy?

As an enormous crowd gathered to hear him speak outside Rome’s San Giovanni basilica on Friday night, the comedian Beppe Grillo had every reason to be jubilant, but the thought of bringing down Italy’s political order appeared to make him pensive, even melancholy.


Minutes later, a different, wilder Grillo took the stage to a rock-star welcome before at least 100,000 cheering fans, yelling at them that his movement would rip open parliament “like a tin of tuna” when it sends an army of activists – analysts predict more than 100 – into the senate and lower house after Italians go the polls today and tomorrow.

Not to worry, the comedian won’t hold an office:

The 64-year-old comic will not enter parliament – he has a 1980 driving conviction for manslaughter after a crash in which passengers were killed, and thus falls foul of his own rule banning MPs with records.

But, he’s got political pundits spooked.

His manifesto combines pro-environment policies with a crackdown on parliamentary privileges, a living wage for the jobless using cuts from military spending, the slashing of top managers’ wages, broadband for all, bike lanes and the right for priests to have children “so they don’t touch other people’s”.

A living wage for the jobless! Imagine!

Today, the Guardian reports:

All the evidence suggests that, when the result of Italy’s general election is known later on Monday, it will be a deafening – and sensational – Basta! (That’s enough!). The publication of polls in the last two weeks of the campaign is banned in Italy. But results circulating on the internet showed an abrupt surge in support for the Five Star Movement (M5S), which wants to force a reboot, not just of Italy’s sleazy politics but of its cronyistic society too.

Don’t count chickens and all that. But, stay tuned. If Italians eventually decide they prefer money changers to the kings of the Euro, that will teach the bankers a thing or two.