The size of the problem was illustrated to me recently in conversation with a gentle lawyer from Rome. Conversation had turned, as it does with monotonous regularity, to Berlusconi, and the lawyer confided that he felt assassination was the only way the country would ever liberate itself of the man. He’s normally such a pacifist that I assumed he was joking, but he was serious. He couldn’t see any other way in which the country could get rid of its prime minister. Now I dislike Berlusconi as much as anyone, but I would far rather have him in power than have a return to the bloodshed of the “years of lead” in the 1970s. And yet when a law-abiding, middle-class, Catholic lawyer starts talking quite seriously about armed insurrection you know something is terribly wrong in the country, that it has reached a very dangerous political cul-de-sac.

Tobias Jones