Why I'm troubled by Berlusconi's departure

If what happened in Italy were repeated here, Peter Mandelson would be prime minister by the end of

This may seem surprising. I'm surprised myself. But I heard the news that Silvio Berlusconi had resigned with more sadness than good cheer.

Why so, when Europe's fourth largest economy finds itself on the brink of bankruptcy, brought there by the leadership of a man seemingly more concerned with his libido than sorting out some fairly fundamental issues with the nation's finances? Shouldn't we all be delighted to be saying farewell to "The Great Seducer"?

Well, I'm not wasting tears on the billionaire media mogul. But his departure does mark yet another nail in the coffin of the democratic rights that we all seem to take for granted and yet wave goodbye to with such abandon when it suits us.

Berlusconi hasn't gone because the Italian people have decided that it would be better if he was given the chance to spend more time with his party organiser. Indeed, constitutionally, he didn't need to resign even now.

He's stepped down because the markets thought that it would probably be for the best if one of their own was given the chance to run things for a while. Given the markets are made up of the same bankers who got the world economy into this mess in the first place, I am not entirely convinced they are the best placed group to be making leadership decisions on behalf of the Italian people.

Also, the new leader doesn't exactly have a democratic mandate, does he? Selected mainly because he would be seen as acceptable to the Group de Frankfurt, Signor Monti is an unelected lifetime Senator, a former European Commissioner and a member of that shadowy cabal, the Bilderberg group.

If what's happened in Italy were repeated in the UK, Peter Mandelson would be kissing the Sovereign's hands by the end of the month. Now, there's a thought.

And so we find two of Southern Europe's democracies being run by unelected technocrats -- Greece's new Prime Minister appears to be the Hellenic equivalent of Sir Mervyn King -- with no set date for when either country's people may get asked the question of who they would like to be in charge.

With contagion very much on the cards, how many more of our European partners will be being run by technocrats by the end of the year?

I guess it at least demonstrates that voting does change things. So they've abolished it.


Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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A global marketplace: the internet represents exporting’s biggest opportunity

The advent of the internet age has made the whole world a single marketplace. Selling goods online through digital means offers British businesses huge opportunities for international growth. The UK was one of the earliest adopters of online retail platforms, and UK online sales revenues are growing at around 20 per cent each year, not just driving wider economic growth, but promoting the British brand to an enthusiastic audience.

Global e-commerce turnover grew at a similar rate in 2014-15 to over $2.2trln. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is embracing e-marketplaces with 28 per cent growth in 2015 to over $1trln of sales. This demonstrates the massive opportunities for UK exporters to sell their goods more easily to the world’s largest consumer markets. My department, the Department for International Trade, is committed to being a leader in promoting these opportunities. We are supporting UK businesses in identifying these markets, and are providing access to services and support to exploit this dramatic growth in digital commerce.

With the UK leading innovation, it is one of the responsibilities of government to demonstrate just what can be done. My department is investing more in digital services to reach and support many more businesses, and last November we launched our new digital trade hub: www.great.gov.uk. Working with partners such as Lloyds Banking Group, the new site will make it easier for UK businesses to access overseas business opportunities and to take those first steps to exporting.

The ‘Selling Online Overseas Tool’ within the hub was launched in collaboration with 37 e-marketplaces including Amazon and Rakuten, who collectively represent over 2bn online consumers across the globe. The first government service of its kind, the tool allows UK exporters to apply to some of the world’s leading overseas e-marketplaces in order to sell their products to customers they otherwise would not have reached. Companies can also access thousands of pounds’ worth of discounts, including waived commission and special marketing packages, created exclusively for Department for International Trade clients and the e-exporting programme team plans to deliver additional online promotions with some of the world’s leading e-marketplaces across priority markets.

We are also working with over 50 private sector partners to promote our Exporting is GREAT campaign, and to support the development and launch of our digital trade platform. The government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign is targeting potential partners across the world as our export trade hub launches in key international markets to open direct export opportunities for UK businesses. Overseas buyers will now be able to access our new ‘Find a Supplier’ service on the website which will match them with exporters across the UK who have created profiles and will be able to meet their needs.

With Lloyds in particular we are pleased that our partnership last year helped over 6,000 UK businesses to start trading overseas, and are proud of our association with the International Trade Portal. Digital marketplaces have revolutionised retail in the UK, and are now connecting consumers across the world. UK businesses need to seize this opportunity to offer their products to potentially billions of buyers and we, along with partners like Lloyds, will do all we can to help them do just that.

Taken from the New Statesman roundtable supplement Going Digital, Going Global: How digital skills can help any business trade internationally

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