Prime Minister Monti* is reconstructing the centre-right. Not a Christian Democrat Right that, post-War, covered a multitude of Fascist sins but a lay, civic, gangster-free Right: a right Right. Early polls suggested derisory levels of support - after all populist-right parties alla Berlusconi exist by catering to personal interest and lack of propriety in civic action, and voting against instinctive self-interest requires ethical effort. An effort Monti is calling for.
On the well known Italian principle, "First God makes them and then He pairs them," the Democratic Party is the centre-left pair of the Berlusconi right. The old Communist party personnel, party management and control delivered a party Leader and even further left alliances that most of us wouldn't touch with a barge-pole. And for the more politically innocent amongst us, a brutal lesson in real, live socialist practice. Both of the pair are now hopping with rage that Monti is upsetting their applecart.
On 24 February we are to vote not for self-interest, or an ideology, but for an agenda - a clear set of polices that might reasonably be expected to lead to growth in the Italian economic sector and to stability in the eurozone. Berlusconi attempts to dominate the media (well he would, wouldn't he, owning lots of it?) while the Democratic leader Bersani attempts to paint Monti as a man who should be above party politics and serving his country in some unspecified and rarefied sphere (with the pretence that the last thirteen months of Italian governance was merely technical rather than profoundly political and driven by a centre-right agenda whole-heartedly supported by the Democratic Party itself.)
Both so-called Right and so called Left are utterly discredited and utterly dishonest: also they are incompetent, economically and politically. The opinion polls are dated and slow to respond to political movement and have yet to show greater preference for Monti than 20%, although 12-15% was quoted long after the political ground had shifted. At the same time and undeniably much of the Italian electorate is set in its ways. However this time truth and right and justice is on the side of the Angels. Should it be otherwise then the importance of Italy to the European Union will be reflected in the downgrading of the importance of Member-State elections and a swift and notable shift of power to European Union institutions.
Monti will win at home or Europe will win over nation states. The elections in Italy are of wider significance than our local concerns.
* Mario Monti now is a caretaker prime minister in Italy until the general election in February 2013. This status underlines just how false was the pretence that the previous thirteen months were apolitical, technical governance. It is worth thinking also about just how much power he has for the next eight weeks with no requirement to answer to Parliament, the Parliament having been dissolved. He and President Napolitano could be surprisingly constitutionally innovative.