Have you been watching him? Just as you can’t take your eyes off a bad actor on a stage, and their badness somehow subsumes all the action, so Berlusconi is oddly mesmeric. Where is he now, I wonder of the Italian PM? How much of a plonker is he being now? Frequently, he will oblige me by popping up in the background of footage from the summit, appearing to be making a joke about his pen, or the Chinese. The only time he appeared to realise that a serious demeanour was required was during the red-carpet arrivals ceremony in Cannes on Thursday, but otherwise it has been business as usual.
Last week, Berlusconi was filmed turning round after passing the Danish PM to take in her rear view. Then there he was again this week, checking out Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez. A visual caress of her backside, a suggestive readjustment of his tie – it’s the look that says: “I could scarcely be more concerned that Italian bond yields have reached critical levels.”
Many leaders would find it somewhat sobering, this experience of attending the conference as leader of a country that everyone fears could be next to implode and take them with it. Instead, you get the overwhelming feeling that Berlusconi sees the gathering as a chance to take in some cabinet-level booty. Call it a wonga wonga party. How many hours’ blissful sleep do you reckon he is getting a night? Nine? Ten? In many ways he’s never looked better, if you squint past the “work” and the hair transplant. And bear in mind he’s always dealing with the small matter of three criminal trials as well.