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Bossi S.P.Q.R. 'Roman Pigs' row

Outspoken federalist sparks ire with wisecrack

27 September, 17:41
Bossi S.P.Q.R. 'Roman Pigs' row (ANSA) - Rome, September 27 - Northern League leader Umberto Bossi raised a ruckus Monday when he recycled an old joke saying the S.P.Q.R. motto linked to Rome stood not for Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and Roman People) but for "Sono Porci Questi Romani" ("These Romans Are Pigs").

Bossi is known for his anti-Roman tirades but this time, Rome Mayor Alemanno said, "he has really gone beyond the pale".

Alemanno, who is in Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, said he would ask the premier to rein in the outspoken federalist leader and reforms minister, whose political career has been based on an anti-Rome stance.

"Not only has he insulted the Rome of today but also that of the past, dusting off a hackneyed old joke from a comic book".

This was a reference to the French comic Asterix, where plucky Gauls of the type Bossi identifies with regularly get the better of Roman invaders.

Bossi made his remarks at a beauty contest elimination stage for 'Miss Padania', the League's name for the north of Italy.

He was restating, among other things, the League's opposition to a planned Rome Formula One Grand Prix which would allegedly clash with the historic Italian GP at Monza, and the party's belief that certain key ministries should be moved north from Rome, seen as a seedbed of corruption. The centre-left opposition latched onto the latest outrageous comment from Bossi, who has long depicted the central government as "thieving Rome" and whose anti-patriotic stance was exemplified, a few years ago, when he said the Italian flag should be used as toilet paper.

"Bossi's insults against Rome and its citizens are extremely serious because they come from a government minister," said Vannino Chiti, Senate deputy whip for the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD).

An MP from the centre-left opposition Italy of Values party, Silvana Mura, said: "Describing the citizens of the Italian capital as 'pigs' is inadmissible".

Nicola Zingaretti, the PD head of the Rome province, said "We're tired of Bossi's quips against Rome and the Romans".

"Instead of playing the comedian he should get on with his job as minister".

A PD MP, Jean-Leonard Touadi, said Bossi should apologise to Romans or resign.

A Facebook group soon sprang up, Rome Is Suing Bossi. Centrist Catholic opposition leader Pier Ferdinando Casini said: "The League only knows how to insult and launch PR stunts, instead of solving the country's problems".

For the government, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of the PdL said "this time (Bossi) really put his foot in it...but he's a sensible person and he'll be able to get the Romans to forgive him".

Youth Minister Giorgia Meloni, also of the PdL, stressed that "the one-liners that the Northern League leader fires off during his speeches are often annoying but fortunately do not constitute a policy".

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a League heavyweight seen as the institutional face of the League, said he had "nothing to say" about the episode.

Renata Polverini, the centre-right governor of Lazio, the region around Rome, said "Rome and its citizens deserve more respect".

But PdL MP Margherita Boniver said: "Much ado about nothing. It makes you smile, the vehemence with which people are responding to the wisecracks of the old League leader, who only repeated a joke which made us chuckle when we were in elementary school".

The S.P.Q.R tag, coined soon after ancient Rome became a republic and still used when it turned into an empire, is seen all around the capital, not only on Roman monuments but also on modern municipal plaques, fountains and even sewer caps.

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