Thursday, May 29, 2014

Beppe Grillo meets Nigel Farage to discuss possible alliance

If Italy is celebrating Renzi’s victory, the UK is dealing with UKIP’s feared triumph in the European election. The Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party came first with 24 MEPs, beating both Labour and the Conservatives, not to mention the Liberal Democrats who only have one MEP now.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has claimed several times that UKIP would never go into any sort of alliance with Le Pen’s Front National, accusing the French party of being “racist”. While more than a few people would argue that UKIP is quite racist itself, Farage is playing clever politics by trying to keep his distance.

                                                    Beppe Grillo and Nigel Farage

The same cannot be said of Beppe Grillo. UKIP is openly a right-wing party, but Grillo’s M5S has always prided itself of being super partes, belonging neither to the left or the right. And because of this, Grillo has, in my view, made a very silly move by meeting Farage. The two leaders met yesterday for lunch in Brussels, and it looks like they really hit it off.
I mentioned this in my previous post: in Italy nobody seemed to care if this was a European election and not a general one. They merely portrayed it as a battle “Renzi vs Grillo”, since it is quite evident that now Renzi and Grillo are the two main players and Berlusconi is far less influent than he used to be. Even now everyone is trying to figure out where Grillo went wrong in terms of electoral campaign. They mention things such as using tones that sounded too harsh (his swearing, his referring to himself as being “beyond Hitler”, his joke about vivisecting Berlusconi’s dog…). But again, nobody is focusing on his positions about the EU. In a European election, are we sure that those really mattered so little…?
Actually, the fact that M5S lost some of its electors could also be linked to its refusal to decide which parliamentary group to join. M5S activists kept claiming that they would gain enough MEP to create their own group, but since this hypothesis was quite unlikely, I think some people feared that they would end up not joining a group and therefore being in a very weak position, incapable of influencing any decision. By joining forces with UKIP, M5S might certainly be more likely to carry some weight in Brussels. However, this move is not looking too popular in Italy, and it raises questions about the lack of internal democracy in Grillo’s movement.
Grillo claimed that if the movement were to join any group, it would do so following an online consultation with its members. But this did not happen. Grillo flew to Brussels to meet Farage without consulting anyone, and actually he wanted to keep their meeting a secret. In Italy people found out about it because Grillo ran into the Northern League’s leader, Matteo Salvini, at the airport, and Salvini tweeted that Grillo was on his plane. Today some M5S activists are complaining about the meeting, claiming that UKIP is not dissimilar from Front National and that M5S should stay away from such parties. This doesn’t change the fact that the meeting already happened, and that Farage and Grillo certainly liked each other.
Grillo claims he has no influence over M5S members, and indeed he is not even a member of parliament. Yet he has, on several occasions, expelled members, sometimes for trivial reasons such as going on TV without the movement’s consent. And now, Grillo can meet other European leaders and discuss possible alliances without anyone’s permission.

For now, one thing is quite clear. It’s true that M5S is not left-wing and is not right-wing. It’s Beppe Grillo’s.