Italian politician under fire for joke about London mayor Sadiq Khan

Beppe Grillo has made a terrorist joke about Sadiq Khan. Photos / Getty
Beppe Grillo has made a terrorist joke about Sadiq Khan. Photos / Getty

Italian comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo has been highly criticised after making a terrorist joke about new London mayor Sadiq Kahn.

The leader of Italy's second-largest political party was performing at a show in Padua on Saturday when he praised the victory in the mayoral election of "Bangladeshi" Khan, who is British and whose family are originally from Pakistan.

The comedian noted that London's first Muslim mayor is an example of what unthinkable surprises life can hold in store and as proof that one must never stop dreaming, only to proceed to joke: "Now I want to see when he blows himself up in Westminster."

Mr Grillo's unwillingness to tune down his jokes could be detrimental to his populist M5S which he is trying to portray as a serious alternative to traditional parties, especially to the Democratic Party (PD), led by prime minister Matteo Renzi.

Racist and misogynist comments are not uncommon within extreme parties in Italian politics, but the remark by the leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), an anti-establishment party founded by Mr Grillo in 2009, came at a sensitive time as his own party's candidate, Virginia Raggi, is the leading contender to become the next mayor of Rome.

Stefano Esposito, a PD senator, demanded to know what the mayoral candidate Raggi thought of the joke: "What does Raggi think of the racist insult that her boss directed at the mayor of London? Pretends nothing is going on?" he asked on Twitter.

The same question was asked by Ettore Rosato, the PD's leader in Parliament: "Racism and generalisation by Beppe Grillo is not funny and offend integrated people and free voters. What does Virginia Raggi say about Westminster?"

The PD's candidate for mayor of Rome, Roberto Giachetti, also attacked the one-liner, saying on Twitter that "It didn't make me laugh."

"The Five Star Movement is now distinguishing itself for its racism and xenophobia," Andrea Romano, PD lawmaker, said today, according to Italian daily La Stampa.

Mr Romano said that he believes the remark was an attempt to distract the public from internal problems within the M5S, including a scandal involving the mayor of Parma, Federico Pizzarotti, a member of Grillo's party who is under investigation for abuse of office. Filippo Nogarin, mayor of Livorno, is also M5S member under investigation, this time for fraud.

Whilst both politicians denied any wrongdoing, the investigations are particularly painful for a party that rose to prominence partly thanks to its anti-corruption stance.

The comment may also cause issues for Ukip as leader Nigel Farage has developed a close connection with Mr Gillo in the part few years. The Five Star Movement and Ukip share membership of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy bloc in the European Parliament.

In March, Mr Farage said Mr Grillo was "doing amazingly well ... here's one of the great paradoxes: Eurosceptic parties across Europe are dominated by young people."

- Daily Telegraph UK

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 02 Oct 2016 11:39:29 Processing Time: 525ms