Not too long ago, the British public went wild over some pictures portraying PM David Cameron eating Pringles on an EasyJet flight, as he was flying to Portugal to join his wife and kids on holiday. To an Italian, whether he was eating Pringles or having tea is quite irrelevant. The fact that he was on a low-cost flight is enough to cause surprise.
Something similar happened in Italy a few months ago, when the newly elected President Mattarella took a regular Alitalia flight from Rome to Palermo. This was the first time that a President had flown on a commercial plane since President Pertini, who did so a few times in the 1980s. It was indeed quite shocking to see such a “humble” behaviour, as this is definitely not typical in Italian politics. On the other hand, Cameron was mocked for his Pringles more than complimented for being so “frugal” to fly EasyJet.
Matteo Renzi with US Open finalists Roberta Vinci and Flavia Pennetta
Just a few days ago, in stark contrast with Cameron, Italian PM Matteo Renzi was criticised for taking a private plane to New York, in order to watch the all-Italian women's US Open final. To be there, he cancelled all his commitments, which included the “Fiera del Levante” (“Fair of the South”), an annual event held to discuss the economy of southern Italy. He justified his presence at the match by saying that a final where both tennis players are Italian marks an important moment in the history of the country, and he had to be there to show support to “the girls”. He added that the “Fiera del Levante will be there next year”. Nevertheless, Renzi is ignoring legitimate criticisms for taking a private flight at the expenses of the taxpayers, labelling them as “populism”. According to Il Fatto Quotidiano, such flight cost between 150,000 and 200,000 euros (http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2015/09/15/voli-di-stato-quellaereo-si-chiama-peculato/2036669/).
Renzi has been talking for years about the need to cut travel costs for Italian politicians, who are entitled to the so-called “blue cars”. He symbolically “sold” a few blue cars on EBay shortly after becoming PM in 2014, to show his will to reduce their number. Nevertheless, now Renzi seems a lot less committed. Lately, he has been travelling almost exclusively by helicopter between Rome and his native Florence. He also took the helicopter to go on a skiing holiday with his family for New Year’s Eve. According to him, he is always forced to do so because of “security reasons”.
One can only wonder what Renzi’s British counterpart might have to say on this matter.