Italy’s hard-Right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, suffered a rare setback on Monday when his TV presenter girlfriend announced she was breaking up with him on Instagram.
Elisa Isoardi, a former model who hosts the Italian version of Ready Steady Cook, announced the end of their three-year relationship with a photograph of the couple in happier times, lying on a bed together.
The picture showed Ms Isoardi, dressed in a fluffy white dressing gown, smiling at the camera while a bare-chested Mr Salvini nuzzled her neck.
“It’s not what we have given each other that I will miss but what we still had to give each other,” Ms Isoardi wrote, citing a contemporary Italian poet. “With immense respect for the true love that there was, thank you Matteo.”
The announcement was made just as Mr Salvini was travelling to Ghana to discuss migration and how to prevent West Africans from trying to reach Europe via Libya.
Mr Salvini responded on his own Instagram account by posting a picture of himself with his arms outstretched, captioned: “I never made public my private life, and I won’t start doing it now… I loved, I forgave, surely I also made mistakes, but I believed it all the way. Pity someone had other priorities.”
Elisa Isoardi with a bowl full of white truffles at a truffle auction in Alba in northern Italy Credit: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
Her decision to go public with the break-up was criticised as crass by some Italians on social media.
“Does it seem normal to you that this person publishes a selfie to announce on social media the end of her relationship with a government minister? Our institutions have lost everything – values, principles and now dignity,” wrote one woman on Twitter.
On Instagram, a woman commented: “Salvini is a minister. You could have avoided posting the photograph.”
Others said the timing of the announcement was insensitive when Italy was mourning the deaths of more than 30 people from a week of storms, flooding and torrential rain that swept the country from the Alps to Sicily.
“As Italy weeps for the victims of the bad weather, Ms Isoardi displays Salvini half-naked in bed in a hotel. He’s not a contestant in Temptation Island – he’s the interior minister,” said Alessia Morani, an MP with the centre-Left opposition Democratic Party.
Mr Salvini is an enthusiastic fan of social media, using Facebook and Twitter to announce policies, criticise opponents and garner support.
He has more than 900,000 followers on Twitter and 3.3 million followers on Facebook.
Since coming to power in June as a leading member of the populist coalition, Mr Salvini has been on a roll with his attacks on multiculturalism, crackdown on migrant rescue boats in the Mediterranean and nativist “Italians First” slogan.
He has managed to double national support for his party, the anti-immigration League, from 17% to 34%.
A poll published at the weekend that The League is poaching votes from its coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, particularly in northern Italy.
The Italian government is made up of an uneasy alliance between the Five Star Movement of Luigi Di Maio and The League, led by Mr Salvini Credit: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
In the last five months, Mr Salvini has comprehensively eclipsed Luigi Di Maio, the leader of Five Star and also a deputy prime minister, as well as Giuseppe Conte, the figurehead prime minister trying to hold the two blocs together.
“The Five Star Movement is a taxi that The League has used to get to Palazzo Chigi (the office of the prime minister), and from which it can get out any time it likes,” Piero Ignazi, a professor of politics at Bologna University, wrote in La Repubblica.
To survive, Five Star should break with The League, re-establish its identity and forge an alliance with the centre-Left Democratic Party, Prof Ignazi said.