She says she’s from the political “centre right” and thinks like Margaret Thatcher – and would love to be Italy’s first female PM after a run of 30 men in the job.
Europe correspondent @adamparsons
Thursday 22 September 2022 20:01, UK
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She has been talked about, analysed, lauded and castigated.
To some, she is a dangerous far-right demagogue; to others, a free-thinking radical who breaks the shackles of convention. So who actually are you, Giorgia Meloni?
When we talk, she is animated, speaks good English, and answers at length. Each response takes a couple of minutes – Macron duration, even if not Macron politics.
By next week, though, Ms Meloni will almost certainly have completed an ascent to power as rapid as the French president.
Four years ago, her Brothers of Italy party achieved a paltry 4% in the general election; this time around she will probably win six or seven times as much, and become Italy’s prime minister.
“I know Italian people,” she says. “They know exactly who we are. We are a conservative party that believes in the national interest of Italy.
“We will show that there is nobody all over the world who needs to be afraid of us.”
She is, she says, from the political “centre-right” and says she would be “absolutely happy to be the first female prime minister” after a run of 30 men in the job.
She knows she will inherit the country at a time of turbulence, telling me that “all Italy’s macroeconomic indicators have worsened in this year” but insists the solution lies in stability: “What Italy needs is a government chosen by citizens that can stay there five years to build a vision.”
In reality, she knows that Italy is an impatient country, which has changed government roughly once per year since the end of the Second World War. She will need to make an impact, fast.
‘I think about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’
So what is at the top of the list? “The top priority today goes to supporting families and businesses that have been brought to their knees by inflation and the rise of energy bills due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
“I think the next Italian government should fight at the EU level for a price cap to be introduced for gas. We are ready to act also at the national level if the EU should delay any longer.”
It is an interesting threat – to take unilateral action should the EU dither.
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It is an echo of discontented grumbles in various European capitals, even if Ms Meloni insists that, despite her own Euroscepticism, her country is dedicated to the European Union.
“Once the emergency has been overcome, the priorities are to cut taxes, to support families and the competitiveness of businesses, to build strategic infrastructures and to invest in a new industrial policy.”
If all this sounds familiar, she says that “in the conservative world I think about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher”, but she maintains that she is an original: “I’m inspired by myself and from a completely new experience that I would like to be only Italian.”
‘All Europe has to defend our borders’
On migration, she says her policy “is to be serious” – to stop illegal immigration, to carry out asylum checks before people set off for Europe and then to distribute refugees across all the EU’s 27 states.
“What Italy should do is to stop boats leaving from Africa with a European mission. I think all Europe has to defend our borders, and should talk with the governments of North Africa to decide who is a refugee and who is not.
“Then we could distribute only the refugees in the 27 European countries in the same way. But [illegal] immigration is another thing. If they think they can come to Italy without respecting our laws, that is not possible.
“It is not solidarity to let a thousand people come in Italy and then them living with selling drugs, criminality or prostitution. That’s not my idea of solidarity.
“I don’t think that a serious nation can have this kind of behaviour.”
She says she would be “absolutely happy” to become Italy’s first woman prime minister and that “it would help lots of women here” – she is promising more “family-friendly policies” and, much to the anger of the LGBTQ community, lauds the priority of a child being brought up by a mother and father – she opposes fostering by same-sex couples.
Ms Meloni, it should be noted, was herself brought by a single mother on the outskirts of Rome.
Our time is at an end. As her image disappears from the computer screen, she is a candidate with a broad spectrum of ideas.
By Monday morning, she will probably be set to be her country’s new leader, with the challenge of turning ideas into reality.