‘L’ITALIA ingoveranbile” was the headline splashed across the front pages of Europe’s fourth largest economy. Sunday’s election not only delivered a hung parliament but a result where populists and the xenophobic right have become indispensable in the formation of a new government.

Gone are the days when the Democratic Party polled 40 per cent. But this existential crisis for mainstream politics is not only a problem for the centre-left. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suddenly found himself as the junior partner in his centre-right coalition. Indeed the “establishment” parties on both sides of the spectrum won a combined 33 per cent of the vote.

But we’ve seen this elsewhere. In France last year the French Socialists lost ground to Emmanuel Macron on the centre and the Republicans were overtaken by Marine Le Pen. In the Brexit referendum Labour and the Tories were both sidelined by Ukip. It’s no coincidence that this is happening in countries with the greatest social and income inequalities. And it is compounded by a digital age where fake information and false promises have become part and parcel of election campaigns.

This is why I disagree with people like Owen Jones who blame social democratic parties for not being left enough and fail to appreciate national contexts. The truth is that hard-left parties in Italy, France and Germany were all emphatically rejected at the ballot box.

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France had not one, but three socialist parties standing in last year’s legislative elections and each of them failed. Likewise in Italy, the hard-left Liberi e Uguali won a catastrophic 3 per cent of the vote. Before they split from the Democrats the party was neck and neck in the polls with the Five Star Movement. Perhaps if they’d spared us the self-indulgence and put their personal quarrels to one side they’d be sitting in parliament as the largest party. The divorce was a damaging act of disunity and self-destruction – something the left is too often guilty of.

But this wasn’t the only reason for the left’s demise in this election. Over the past two years, 300,000 migrants from North Africa arrived on Italy’s shores with no homes, no jobs, no means to support themselves and a significant language barrier. Immigration quickly became the issue of the day, with Trumpian fear-mongering tactics and few credible solutions from the government. However this was not Italy’s failure alone. Libya remains a vacuum and those countries that helped to destabilise the region in 2011 simply washed their hands of the aftermath. But history has not been kind to countries who fail to rebuild once the shooting war is over. Unless action is taken to reduce crossings over the Mediterranean, not only will thousands more people drown at sea, but southern Europeans, already hit with austerity and unemployment, will continue to turn inward. Italy’s calls for a European immigration and asylum system fell on deaf ears. Even the EU’s migration relocation scheme was opposed by certain European capitals, while London, with its guilty conscience, opted out altogether. In light of this crisis, the left didn’t stand a chance. Just like the Hillary Clinton campaign, the wind was blowing in one direction and there was no way of diverting it.

Don’t get me wrong, Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party did make mistakes. But they inherited a deeply austerity-bruised country with unemployment through the roof, failing banks and a mounting debt crisis. Anyone at the helm in those years would have faced the same monumental challenges. Renzi did however steady the ship. Italy’s GDP grew steadily and is now growing faster than the UK’s. Employment is up, youth unemployment down by 10 per cent and scores of new laws were passed in areas where Italy had been lagging, such as civil partnerships – a historic achievement under the Vatican’s watch which would have been unimaginable 10 years ago. New rights for disabled people, a new law on a living will, education reform and many more progressive achievements would be non-existent today without a centre-left government. On the world stage he restored credibility, after years of humiliation under Berlusconi. I was proud to vote for him and call him my prime minister.

So it’s simply ill-judged for Owen Jones to suggest Renzi wasn’t radical enough. For many Italians his policies were ideological and already a step too far. Renzi was a reformist. Arguably he tried to change too much too quickly. Italy, after all, is a deeply traditionalist and conservative nation. Ironically his proposed constitutional reform would have given Italy stronger executives, preventing the kind of political impasse that the country is now grappling with.

Italians, alas, still too uncomfortable with their past, opted for a future of instability – and it is destined to remain, at least for now, an Italia ingovernabile.