Uproar as Grillo likens Renzi to crash pilot

The leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement sparked outrage on Friday when he said there were similarities between the “depressed” Germanwings co-pilot who officials said deliberately crashed his plane, killing 150 people, and Italian premier Matteo Renzi.

Uproar as Grillo likens Renzi to crash pilot
Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Beppe Grillo wrote on his blog that they are both “two men alone at the helm”.

"There are disturbing similarities between Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps and Matteo Renzi, who is at work to make Italy crash," he said.

In an image on his blog, Renzi is also depicted as a pilot flying a plane with the Germanwings log on the side and an Italian flag on the front.

Lubitz was named by French investigators as being solely responsible for the Germanwings disaster in the French Alps on Tuesday, after locking the pilot out of the cockpit and forcing the plane to crash.

READ MORE: What we know about the Germanwings co-pilot

The plane had been making its way to Dusseldorf from Barcelona when it crashed in between the towns of Digne-les-Bains and Barcelonnette.

Grillo compared Lubitz locking the pilot out of the cockpit to Renzi “eliminating the Senate and any internal opposition”.

“The Airbus passengers realized only at the last minute that the co-pilot was taking them to disaster, after eight long minutes. Italy will also only understand at the last minute, when there will be nothing left to do,” he added.

A spokesperson for Grillo declined to comment when contacted by The Local.

But the comments were met with an immediate backlash.

“Even the right to freedom of expression must have a limit: not to cross the boundary of bad taste, not to use tragedies,
pain and collective anguish as material for the dig of the day. This is what Grillo has done," Walter Verini, leader on the
House justice committee for Renzi's Democratic Party (PD) was quoted by Ansa as saying.

PD politician Stefano Pedica said “only someone mad can attempt to profit from the death of 150 people using it as an excuse to attack Renzi,” adding that Grillo should drop politics and go back to being a politician.

Even his supporters lambasted the comments.

“Dear Beppe, you’ve really hit the bottom,” one wrote beneath his blog post.

“What a shame! We were very much deluded by the force of your ideas and united with your battles, even in the voting booth.”

“Disrespectful is an understatement,” wrote another.

“Congratulations for the comparison. With a sense of shame and sorrow, I apologize to all the families involved in this family. What a shame.” 

Italy's flagship airline Alitalia told The Local on Friday that it has changed its rules to ensure there are two people in the cockpit at all times following the tragedy.

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Salvini to hold Rome rally to boost Italian right

Italy's strongman Matteo Salvini is to hold a key rally in Rome Saturday aimed at re-launching the Italian right and making a power-grab for the capital.

Salvini to hold Rome rally to boost Italian right
League leader Matteo Salvini at the party's annual rally in Pontida in September 15. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
Some eight special trains and 400 coaches are ferrying in supporters from across the country for the “Italian Pride” demonstration, with the crowds also set for a speech from former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Salvini, head of the far-right League party, pulled support from the previous populist government over the summer in a bid to spark elections he was convinced he could win to govern the eurozone's third-largest economy alone.
That plan failed when his former coalition partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, sealed a deal with the centre-left Democratic Party to form a new government. But after suffering a blip, the League's popularity has risen again in opposition.
Recent polls put the anti-immigration party at between 30 to 33 percent of voter intentions, well ahead of the Five Star (M5S) and Democratic Party (PD), which have dropped slightly to between 18 and 20 percent each.
With the current left-leaning government seeking to change the electoral law to prevent Salvini triumphing alone at the next elections, the 46-year old hopes to unite parties on the right and centre-right under his leadership.
Forza Italia head Berlusconi, 83, whose party has been in a lengthy slump, appears open to just such an alliance, along with the smaller, far-right Brothers of Italy.
Salvini in August had refuted the idea of a tie-up with Forza Italia, saying the League “needs nothing and no-one”. Nevertheless, Salvini has a reputation for changing his mind so often on so many issues that he should come with a warning that his statements were “irreversibly reversible”, editorialist Mattia Feltri wrote this week in the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Neo-fascist party CasaPound is also expected at Saturday's rally, while a small counter-protest will be held in a nearby square.
City needs love
Political analysts say Salvini has set his sights on taking Rome and hope the right-wing alliance could carry him to victory in key upcoming regional elections, potentially setting him up for a win on a national level.
He “is doing what he fundamentally does best: opposition on the ground. Among the people,” said the Open news website.
The next general election is not due until 2023, but the current governing coalition of former foes is shaky and may not last.
Salvini has waged war on Rome's mayor, M5S member Virginia Raggi, calling for her resignation, and will circulate a popular petition Saturday demanding she step down now, two years before her term is due to end.
The League head took part in a sit-in against Raggi earlier this month. He then did Facebook live videos from places he says symbolise the city's decline, from an abandoned stadium to a residential area besieged by illegal dump sites.
“We need a mayor capable of loving this city and cleaning it up,” he said to Raggi, telling her to go back to being a mum.
'Hands off Rome'
Raggi, 41, has come under intense fire for the city's ongoing garbage crisis and beleaguered transport services, which have existed for decades. She has blamed the problems on organised crime and corruption in previous administrations.
“Hands off Rome,” she tersely replied to Salvini on Twitter.
The League leader has found an unlikely ally in his battle against Raggi in former prime minister Matteo Renzi.
Beyond that, the two Matteos profess to have little in common. As Salvini rallies Saturday, Renzi will be drumming up support for his new centrist Italia Viva party at a Florence convention.