Visiting Italy at the time of the 2006 election, I described Silvio Berlusconi as "a larger-than-life figure who evokes a reluctant admiration even from those who are appalled by his ability to get away with things that would have put lesser people in prison long ago."

And his remarkable career continues. Berlusconi lost that election by the tiniest of margins, but the new centre-left government fell after less than two years, and he returned to power with a comfortable victory in fresh elections in April 2008.