By Michael Day
Italy's MPs, who are the highest paid in Europe, have been caught in a highly embarrassing expenses scandal that threatens to engulf the political classes.
As in many scandals, it is the little details that stick in the mind. During the British MPs' expenses furore, it was a Tory MP's claim for a wooden duck house; for Italians who are steadily working themselves into a fury over their MPs' expenses and salary gravy train, the piquant example concerns the parliamentary hairdressers – all nine of them – on €11,000 (£9,650) a month, each.
This example of the perks enjoyed by Italy's lawmakers is part of a stream of embarrassing disclosures from a disgruntled former parliament employee, calling himself Spider Truman, on a Facebook page entitled "The secrets of the society of Montecitorio", referring to the home of the Italian parliament.
Truman, who has been described as Italy's Julian Assange, also revealed how MPs' families and friends enjoy free flights through the parliamentary travel agency, benefit from reduced private tariffs from telephone companies, and can expect police escorts to cut a swathe through crowds when they or their families want to go shopping.
He has also claimed that many MPs report their computers and other expensive equipment stolen so as to fraudulently claim money for replacements.
Establishment critics of the blogger, described by the political gossip website Dagospia as an "ex-lackey", note that he – or she – has yet to name names, and clearly has an axe to grind after apparently being sacked from a parliamentary job.
The centre-left and its anti-corruption campaigners such as Antonio Di Pietro, so used to claiming the moral high ground in the face of dubious legal manoeuvres that appear designed to benefit premier Silvio Berlusconi, has made no comment about the revelations.
But the disclosures appear to be fuelling public contempt for politicians. Within 48 hours of its opening, the Facebook page had 250,000 members, many of whom have left rude and in some cases unprintable remarks about their parliamentary