The Italian political system is a joke. Quite absurd. Not my judgement but that of the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Laws are made at a snail’s pace and there have been 63 governments since the war, many lasting just a few months. That’s why he’s called a referendum to streamline the whole system, and give more power, to, yes, you’ve guessed it, the prime minister.
But it is a referendum which could claim his scalp. When he first called for the vote he made it clear he’d resign if he lost. With the result in the balance, and the example of Mr Cameron before him, he’s tried to back-pedal. In a recent speech he said if Italy votes No it “wouldn’t mean the end of the world, there would be no plague of locusts.”
Privately he’s said he exaggerated the impact of defeat but he knows exactly what he would do if he’s defeated – but adds there’s no point in him repeating it.
The shine is coming off Italy’s youngish, reforming, charismatic and energetic prime minister. If he goes, it matters, of course, for Mr Renzi and his country. But it has much wider implications. He, along with the German chancellor and French president, are managing the terms of Brexit.
Moreover, his ejection from office could put Italy on a course that would cause yet more instability for a European Union already very nervous about its own future.
In Renzi’s old powerbase, Florence, they’re trying to rally the troops with nightly parties in the park. With the backdrop of blaring music and a funfair, stalls are covered in the patriotic red, green and white bunting of Renzi’s Democratic Party, selling pasta and pizza to raise funds.
One woman tells me she will vote Yes but Renzi is unpopular – people have no hope any more.