It is easy to feel that anything or anyone would do a better job than Silvio Berlusconi, but I can’t help feeling a bit uneasy about the installation of the new ‘technocrat’ government in Italy.
No democratic system is perfect, but to see a government of a major ‘democracy’ take shape, without a single elected figure in it, makes me feel the world is taking a backward step.
The collection of people being gathered beneath new PM Mario Monti may (or may not) be remarkable, clever people who will rise to this moment of crisis for country and for Europe. But government is hard at the best of times. These are the worst of times, and as they make the difficult decisions now before them, they will find the lack of any kind of popular mandate will quickly become a major problem.
David Cameron and George Osborne may be failing spectacularly in the implementation of their economic strategy, as shown by the shocking unemployment figures and the continuing worry about growth, but their voices do at least carry greater weight and authority by dint of having been elected, even if they failed to win an overall majority.
Our own top economic technocrat, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King, meanwhile, seemed to be moving – not for the first time – too close to the political line of the government yesterday, when he has his own job independent of government.
Just as Cameron and Osborne blamed Labour for all their woes a while ago, now they blame Europe. But they know the poor growth and unemployment figures – though they may well be made worse by the eurozone crisis – were not directly caused by it.
I remember from the days following last year’s general election, and the chats Gordon Brown had with Mervyn King, that the Bank Governor was keen to get a new government in, with Cameron and Osborne in charge. That doesn’t make him a Tory. He may genuinely have felt the coalition as formed was the only credible political combination to deliver similar economic credibility. But yesterday’s figures reflect badly on all three of them, as does the effort to blame it all on Europe.
Also I know it is a long way off, but busy people’s diaries get filled a long way out. So I recommend Sir Mervyn’s diary secretary cuts down on his Wimbledon days next summer. Fair enough to enjoy tennis; but not day after day when the economy is going belly up. Technocrats can get away with more than politicians can. But as Italy has shown, they are merging, and if King’s statement yesterday is anything to go by, something similar is happening here.
Whilst Cameron and Osborne stayed pretty much silent on the horror of 1m young unemployed, King did a nice little echo of the Chris Grayling line that the jobless figures ‘are the consequence of what is happening in the eurozone.’ They’re not.