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I mentioned a few weeks ago how I felt that the mood in Italy had changed since the election of Berlusconi: now Amnesty has issued a report that documents a surge of violence against Roma gypsies whilst news reports of attacks on North African Muslims, and immigrant workers are becoming increasingly frequent. Whilst it would be easy to blame the governing coalition which has former fascist parties amongst its members for the growing atmosphere of hate, the left has hardly helped: former mayor of Rome and candidate for Prime Minister Walter Veltroni stated that he thought 75% of crime in Rome was caused by the Roma.

Which leads us to the UK. There is undoubtedly a massive amount of seething anger amongst white working class communities: you only have to go out on the stump to get an appreciation of the size of the problem. The challenge for the left is dealing with this resentment and anger in a way that doesn’t simply pander to racists (it is my conviction that the great majority of these people are not racist, they’re just fed-up with what the perceive as ‘being ignored’).

How in our words and deeds can we address their concerns? I’m not sure I have an easy answer. Integration is certainly a big part of any solution: how this can be achieved under the umbrella of a multi-cultural agenda that promotes segregation though, I’m not entirely sure.

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I’ve just returned from Italy after a few days away in Modena in Emilia-Romagna, historically a region that was a bastion of support for the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The leftist tendencies continue today with a high amount of support for The Union and more recently the Democratic Party: that said Emilia-Romagna is a wealthy region that is more of a home to champagne socialists than the proletarian vanguard of the revolution.

What is different from the last time I was there and now is that there is now an ageing xenophobe back in charge of the country with questionable attitudes towards women and even more questionable coalition partners. In particular, the case of an Eastern European exchange student was brought to my attention. The student in question had been in the country since September, studying legitimately as part of the Erasmus scheme, and planned to leave in June. Not a week had passed after Berlusconi had won the election and the police had called around to see the student in his hall of residence demanding €4000 to renew his visa, an amount that was both unaffordable and unjustified given his legitimacy up until that point. Such an experience correlates with other anecdotes I’ve heard of the police harassing immigrants, homosexuals, and other minorities last time Berlusconi held the reigns of power.

The scary thing is that Italy has enough problems without appealing to the politics of the jack-boot. With a basket-case public sector, national debt running at around 110% of GDP and a sclerotic economy in much need of liberalisation, you’d think that Berlusconi would have more pressing matters to focus on…