27 APRIL 2002, Page 32

'Gangster' PM

From Mr Ronald Harrison Sir: Nicholas Farrell (`Maggie, not Musso', 20 April) is absolutely correct in describing Berlusconi's economic policy as Thatcherite or Blairite rather than fascist, although the AN post-fascist party is the senior partner in his coalition government.

The case against Berlusconi rests, rather, on two counts: first, that he has signally failed to resolve the conflict of interest between his ownership of a business empire, which includes 50 per cent of Italian television, and his premiership, which also gives him indirect control of the remaining 50 per cent, that is, the three state television channels. Second, Berlusconi has not been acquitted of all charges of corruption against him, although several have been dropped because of deliberately orchestrated procedural delays. Moreover. Berlusconi's government has introduced legislation that will undermine the independence of the judiciary if passed. The government wants half the judges on Italy's supreme court to be nominated by the justice minister rather than allowing the magistrates' council to select all of them. Italy's magistrates and judges have called a strike on 6 June to protest against this attempt to bring them under political control.

The electoral support for Berlusconi stems from the weakness and division of the left-of-centre opposition and the tendency in Italy to admire success whatever the cause. A prominent Italian writer recently described Berlusconi on British television as 'the king of gangsters'. Is he really, therefore, fit to govern a Western European democracy?

Ronald Harrison

(Formerly HM Consul-General at Naples), Helensburgh, Arqfl & Bute, Scotland