Today he is an independent writer and consultant on international affairs, based in London and Somerset, and writes regular columns for The Times in Britain and La Stampa in Italy. He is best known for having served as editor-in-chief of The Economist, the world's leading weekly magazine on current affairs and business, from 1993 to 2006. In 2001, Bill Emmott (www.billemmott.com) became famous in Italy for a cover story he ran in The Economist, bearing the title ‘Why Silvio Berlusconi is unfit to lead Italy.' The story gained Emmott many friends and foes here. While Italian journalists (and leftists) praised him and his work, making him the first non-Italian to win the prestigious È giornalismo (‘This is journalism') award in 2003, Berlusconi slapped him with a few defamation suits for the exposés. The author of 12 books, Emmott's latest takes another bold look at Italy. Published by Rizzoli, Forza, Italia: Come ripartire dopo Berlusconi is the result of Emmott's journey through Italy to find ‘La Buona Italia,' distinct from ‘La Mala Italia,' and analyze what can be done to unleash more of the good in the post-Berlusconi era. From Sandro Pertini and his Slow Food movement to the anti-mafia struggle in Southern Italy, from Puglia's gay, Catholic and self-declared communist president, Nichi Vendola, to a group of young, up-and-coming politicians and professionals with lots of enthusiasm and a few good ideas: these are some of many reasons Emmott says Italy should look to the future with hope. TF had the pleasure of talking politics with Emmott the day after he spoke at Mayor Renzi's political gathering, Prossima Fermata Italia, which ran from November 5 to 7 at the Stazione Leopolda.
Tell me about your book. What led you to write a book on Italy?
Well, nine years ago I put a cover on The Economist saying that Berlusoni was unfit to lead Italy. Before that, I didn't know much about Italy, really. In reality, that was the first of ever intensifying contact with Italy because then we carried the campaign on two years later in another big cover-page investigation. When I left The Economist in 2006-I was there for 13 years and I thought it was time to move on-I said that I was leaving to write books. In that period I had just finished a book on Asia, and I began writing occasional editorials in Corriere della Sera and continued my contact with Italy. This is when I started to seriously think about the book. At the time, the most common books on Italy (and nowadays also the most boring) were books on Silvio Berlusconi. However, it's all been said already; he's made his life a completely open book, an open show, so there's not really much left to say. I thought it would be more interesting to look at Italy, and in particular its positive aspects to see what strengths could be released and exploited in the future, in a spirit of recovery.
Indeed, yours is a totally new view on Italy.
Most foreigners and journalists who write about Italy are negative, and all economists, whether Italian or foreign, who write about Italy tend to be negative and talk about decline and how to deal with it. Instead, I wanted to look at the positive. Really, my book is both positive and negative, yet is focuses on the positive as a way to form an argument for a liberal agenda. The message is that it's not all hopeless, though it would be if Italy didn't do anything. Another premise of the book was taken in view of the 150th anniversary of Italy: what would a modern day Cavour think, what would he do to start a spirit of change, of modern revival? The book was also shaped by having met a group people from an informal network of young professionals who launch initiatives on best practices, called Rete per l'Eccellenza Nazionale (www.progetto-rena.it). They were a great help.