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Are coffee shops and pasta a guide to political instability?

Nigel Morris-Co...

There are three things that provide clear links between Italy and Australia. There are the coffee shops: across much of Australia, the spread of American coffee chains has been stopped in its tracks by the loyalty customers show to to the generations of Italians who have made, for some, Australia the coffee capital of the world.

Then there's the Aussie love of "parsta," a strange mispronunciation of a word that is so intertwined with that all important coffee, even though, if one really gets down to it, pasta is nothing more than poached flat bread - and there's nothing wrong in that.

But perhaps the most striking connection is the seemingly unending chain of failed prime ministers and a general inability to form a proper government. Then again, the UK (maybe it's the Roman influence) seems to be having similar problems.

When I saw the headline "Italian PM resigns" I didn't think "not again." I thought "that must be an old news story that some group has, for a laugh, lifted from a short while ago and given lots of hits to to make it come to "most popular". But no, it's new news. PM Conte (who?) has given up the battle to create a functional coalition government.

Ah, yes, Conte, it's coming back to me now. The President of Italy appointed Conte who has no party allegiance, to act as a buffer between and to unify the various parties who are just big enough create a government if they work together. They haven't because they don't. The President, Sergio Mattarella, now has to try to find another PM or to dissolve parliament with the result that elections will follow. What led to Conte's resignation? I could list the reasons but it all comes down the the same thing: the Italian parliament is populated with those with inflamed passions, all style and no substance.

That is not, of course, true. There are plenty of politicians who are not in it for prestige, for personal gain or even for ideological purposes: they just want their country to be run well for all of its citizens. But they have for decades been outnumbered by groups with a defined agenda, often regional for Italy is legally a country but, like so many in Europe, it can, essentially, be divided by a line running somewhere across the middle. North and South are like oil and water. It's wheat v rice, wine v spirits, pasta v polenta.

In Australia, the battle for the soul of the country is drawn on ideological lines. There are those that claim to be liberals but that only means they get to do what they want and everyone else must let them do it regardless of their own feelings or, even beliefs. They are, broadly, aligned with the socialists because they both want to disturb the status quo and to impose changes and restrictions on a society that has long cherished individual freedom.

I haven't counted up but recently an Australian told me that the recent average term of an Aussie PM is eight months. That feels about right. At least Conte lasted 14 months.