Pocket dynamo set to become Italy’s first female Prime Minister

She bounces into the room, a tiny woman with a big voice and long blonde hair. This forcefield of energy instantly tells me: ‘We sell 30 per cent of mascara in the world and more than half the make-up.’

I am a little taken aback, but intrigued. You might expect such a sales pitch from the Italian delegation at an international trade show. 

But not from Giorgia Meloni, the pocket dynamo predicted to become Italy’s first female Prime Minister after yesterday’s election.

Certainly, she’s wearing mascara, but not that much. In fact, what is striking is how casual she looks — gold platform trainers, plain grey leggings, a matching poncho.

But then, during my interview with her at a hotel in Udine, north-east Italy, it becomes clear. She is holding up her country’s beauty industry as a little-known Italian success story. And she tells me she’s determined the world should be made aware of such triumphs, with ‘Made in Italy’ stamped on all her country’s exports.

Giorgia Meloni is nothing if not a patriot.

She questions the power of the European Union, the wisdom of mass immigration and ‘LGBT lobbies’, and has built a powerful personal brand with her carefully crafted image as a down-to-earth, 45-year-old single mother who understands ordinary Italians.

Her populist stance is loathed by much of the Left and her success has already prompted reactions from extremists

Her populist stance is loathed by much of the Left and her success has already prompted reactions from extremists

At political rallies, she gives her impassioned hour-long speeches dressed in black trousers that look as if they are from a supermarket rack. Not for her the power-dressing, Prada heels and expensive salon hair-dos favoured by the Roman political elite.

In a guttural voice, she tells Italians of her ‘humble’ childhood, of how she was raised by a single mother in a gritty district of Rome after her father abandoned them, leaving her to claw her own way up the slippery pole of Italian politics. And this, she says, has shaped her core beliefs.

‘I want a country where you get ahead, not because of your friends in high places, or the family you were born into, but what you make of yourself’, she says during our interview.

‘The voters like me because they trust me. They know there are no tricks, no lies. I have the courage to say what I believe in. I will do exactly what I promise them. It has been a long walk for me to get this far. But I have never changed my ideals. Other politicians say one thing one day, and two days later say something different with the same face.’

Whether true or not, the fact is her current political trajectory is extraordinary. Pollsters predict she will capture as many as a quarter of the country’s votes tomorrow to become queen bee of a new Right-wing government.

These polls mirror a swing to the Right in other European countries. Earlier this month for instance, I reported on Sweden’s election result — on how a nation ruled for decades by Left-leaning social democrats had turned its back on liberalism following a surge in immigration levels and a shocking increase in gang violence. 

Yesterday, Sweden’s new Right-wing bloc agreed on a stricter immigration policy — and, as we shall see, it’s likely Meloni will follow the same path.

During her whirlwind summer campaign, she has stuck to her ‘politician of the people’ script while proclaiming the merits of her Right-wing party, Brothers of Italy, despite its historical links to Benito Mussolini’s fascists.

She questions the power of the European Union, the wisdom of mass immigration and ¿LGBT lobbies¿, and has built a powerful personal brand with her carefully crafted image as a down-to-earth, 45-year-old single mother who understands ordinary Italians

She questions the power of the European Union, the wisdom of mass immigration and ‘LGBT lobbies’, and has built a powerful personal brand with her carefully crafted image as a down-to-earth, 45-year-old single mother who understands ordinary Italians

Her populist stance is loathed by much of the Left and her success has already prompted reactions from extremists.

The night before we met, she tells me, a message threatening her life was delivered to the northern Italian headquarters of her party. It promised a ‘surprise’ and a ‘hot and fiery’ time for Meloni if she wins power.

Written partly by hand and partly on a typewriter, according to media reports, the missive was signed by the New Red Brigades, a Marxist-Leninist successor to the Red Brigades, the Left-wing Italian-based terror group of the 1970s and 1980s that gained a frightening notoriety for kidnappings, murder and sabotage.

‘I know I have lots of enemies, but I don’t feel unsafe,’ she says shaking her head at me. 

‘If anyone thinks they can intimidate or stop us, they are very mistaken. I am a woman, and women are often underestimated.

‘I am treated like the enemy by the Left because my party has ideas that are common sense,’ she continues. 

‘If I don’t believe in something, I won’t ever say I do believe in it. You cannot cheat people. The truth will come out in the end.’

Her campaign began in late July following the resignation of the (now caretaker) Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a long time-EU devotee and self-confessed liberal socialist.

Draghi, former chief of the European Central Bank, had been brought in by Italy’s president with the EU’s backing to sort out the nation’s financial woes — spiralling national debt, an energy crisis, and a reliance on Brussels’ money.

Draghi’s efforts were in vain and he fell on his sword after Right-wing parties in his coalition rebelled against him.

High on the agenda too, are a return to family values, a continuation of abortion controls and a change in the relationship with the EU

High on the agenda too, are a return to family values, a continuation of abortion controls and a change in the relationship with the EU

Crucially, these included Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the anti-immigrant League party, both allies of Meloni who, with her party Brothers of Italy, was in the wings awaiting her chance.

The result is that Meloni is expected to be anointed head of a bloc of Right-wing parties currently polling at 50 per cent of the votes. Support for her party has grown rapidly from four per cent in 2018. 

The evening I met her, the latest polling predictions on her mobile phone showed Brothers of Italy’s support had reached 27 per cent.

At this, Meloni whispered to me, in a girlish way: ‘The truth is I don’t want too many people to think I will win. I don’t know if you believe me, but I try not to keep talking up the result. I’m worried that voters will go to the beach and not turn out on the day’.

It was a disclosure that reveals another side to this politician who tells me she has been dubbed ‘a monster’ by her Left-wing opponents: ‘They don’t know what to do. They are not only angry over my success, but they are scared too.’

Meloni insists she is not of the far-Right but building up a party similar to the UK’s Tories and the U.S. Republicans. Among her major policies are big cuts on income tax, VAT and business taxes; plus a tough line on illegal immigration, targeting in particular traffickers’ boats coming from Libya to Italy and the granting of automatic citizenship to babies born to foreign parents.

High on the agenda too, are a return to family values, a continuation of abortion controls and a change in the relationship with the EU. Brothers of Italy, with the slogan Less Europe, Better Europe, does not want to withdraw from the Eurozone but insists that national laws should have pre-eminence over EU rules.

Pollsters predict she will capture as many as a quarter of the country’s votes tomorrow to become queen bee of a new Right-wing government

Pollsters predict she will capture as many as a quarter of the country’s votes tomorrow to become queen bee of a new Right-wing government

Meloni says she is putting Italy first — and that her idea of putting the Made In Italy branding on the country’s exports, from cheeses to designer shoes and, yes, mascara, is all about boosting her nation’s confidence.

She explains in American English smattered with Italian: ‘I want low taxes and a different relationship between the citizen and the state. We now have a state that is suffocating entrepreneurs (with red tape). I want to let people work and produce things. The state should be at their shoulder helping them, not interfering.’

Meloni’s strong voice rises a decibel or two on the subject of migration. ‘Uncontrolled immigration is what ordinary people worry about. It impacts on those in the lower level of society. Those who defend open borders, they live on the higher level. A country must be able to decide who comes in.’

She doesn’t care if Italy’s Left-wing press vilifies her for her views. These were highlighted in a speech she made in Spain to that country’s Right-wing Vox party a few weeks ago.

She reportedly told the rally, with some vigour: ‘Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology,’ before adding, her voice rising to a crescendo: ‘No to the violence of Islam, yes to safer borders, no to mass immigration, yes to working for our people.’

Little wonder, given these views, that she is surrounded by a ring of steely-looking security guards as she gets ready to leave for her evening walkabout in Udine. One is a burly former Italian police officer who shakes my hand with a grip that nearly takes my fingers off.

When I comment to one of her aides, a young dark-haired man in a neat Italian suit, that Meloni’s chances of winning look good, he puts his hands together and raises his eyes to the heavens as if in prayer.

She says she no longer reads what is written about her in the papers. It follows some advice from her former mentor Berlusconi, the controversial 85-year-old media tycoon. He is a renowned womaniser who was accused of financial shenanigans when he was Italy’s on-and-off Prime

Minister between 1994 and 2011, yet Meloni confides she still takes advice from him.

‘Berlusconi told me that when he met Margaret Thatcher, she told him she didn’t even read the articles that spoke well of her. I’m the same. I just ignore all the news about me, good or bad. I think to myself what is correct, then go ahead.’

She probably hasn’t seen the cover of Stern then, the liberal-leaning German weekly current affairs magazine. ‘The most dangerous woman in Europe’, it declares under a picture of her looking particularly flinty-faced with hard eyes and pursed lips.

Stern goes on to describe Meloni as a ‘protofascist’. And not without reason, as there is still the thorny matter of her party’s links to Italy’s fascist past.

Recently the Left-wing press unearthed a video of her as a young Right-wing activist praising Mussolini — she says now she has ‘obviously’ changed her views. She explains she honed her political antennae by talking to ordinary people as she put up Right-wing posters on the streets of the inner-city Rome suburb where she was brought up.

In her autobiography, published last year, she recalls that at 15 — after her father left — she found a ‘new family’ when she joined the local youth section of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), created by Mussolini’s henchmen and, later, by coming under Berlusconi’s wing.

It was in 2012 that she broke away from Berlusconi’s fold to co-found Brothers of Italy, named after the opening lines of Italy’s national anthem. Controversially, her party uses the tri-coloured flame logo of the original Mussolini-linked MSI with its motto: ‘God, family and fatherland.’

Last month, she issued a video declaring that her party’s links to fascism were ‘consigned to history’.

When I ask her about the f-word and why she stubbornly keeps the flame logo, she gives me a sudden steely glare. ‘I never look back. This is my political party. I don’t want to be likened to someone who has been before. I am Giorgia Meloni,’ she states emphatically.

The truth is that when we talked in the hotel sitting room, used by the Brothers of Italy that evening, it was hard to ignore the contentious logo plastered multiple times across one wall.

However popular she is, or whatever happens in Italy over these next few days, it sends out a deeply unfortunate message.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11248665/Pocket-dynamo-set-Italys-female-Prime-Minister.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Pocket dynamo set to become Italy’s first female Prime Minister

Andrew Kugle

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