For what felt like the entirety of 2009, the UK degenerated into one never-ending stream of exaggerated disgust at the revelation that our MPs had been billing the public purse for their jaffa cakes, sanitary towels and yes, the odd duck pond ornament and dirty film here and there. Every Member of Parliament could go on like this for years and still not match what Silvio Berlusconi has managed to get up to in his time at the top of Italian politics, though it does seem that time is what he is starting – finally – to run out of.
Maybe it’s all that sun lotion or lubricant – or the fact that he retrospectively changes the law to acquit himself of every crime he has committed – but up to now very little of the shit thrown at him has managed to stick. He has dodged the bullets of accusations that he was a member of a shady masonic organisation and multiple counts of false accounting, embezzlement, tax evasion and bribery, but it looks as if he is going to meet his maker in the form of Moroccan stripper Ruby Rubacori, known as Ruby Heartbreaker.
The 74 year-old Prime Minister is alleged to have slept with Rubacori (real name , Karima El Mahroug) while she was 17, a year younger than the Italian age of consent. Berlusconi is also charged with abuse of government office, having made repeated calls to a Milan police station in order to get El Mahroug released after she was arresting for shoplifting, somewhat bizarrely claiming she was the grandaughter of the now ousted Egyptian President Hosni Murbarak.
What Berlusconi is accused of is not infinitely more shocking than anything else he has done – Ms El Mahroug herself denies that she had any form of sexual contact with him and has made an oddly passionate and eloquent defence of him as just “”fighting loneliness, a bit like I do” – but what is different this time is around is that the iron grip he has had over the political system is not once it was.
He has been walking wounded since barely surviving a no-confidence vote in November and the judiciary that he has been so adept at outwitting in the past smells blood and are determined to get him this time. After reading 800 pages of witness statements and wiretap transcripts of his notorious ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties (which Berlusconi’s lawyers describe as merely quaint dinners where “politics and philosophy are discussed” instead of the booze-fuelled bonk-a-thons of legend) Judge Cristina Di Censo, knowing she has him by his wrinkled put probably quite considerable balls, has decided to fast track the case through the preliminary stages. This means the Prime Minister will not have time to ram changes to wiretapping law through Parliament before his trial starts in April.
In a twist that is as beautifully appropriate as it is satisfying, Berlusconi will be tried by an all-female panel of judges who are not likely to be amused that he has spent more time banging away at the bulk of Italy’s female population than at its colossal budget deficit. The computer that randomly selects judges to preside over trials has also managed to pick two people who have had tangles with him before, although considering the number of cases brought against him, it would been difficult not to.
Carmen D’ Elia and Guilia Turri have both tried and failed to put away some of Berlusconi’s lawyers in the past. Women have been out in force on the streets, with a million people crowding into city squares demanding that he is removed from power and calling for better treatment of women in the media. A guilty verdict would be a perfect comeuppance: having fucked them for so long, women look set to fuck Berlusconi right back.