The pantomime season seemed to come early to the Italian parliament a few weeks back when MPs and Senators found their email inboxes bombarded by pictures and speeches provided by Silvio Berlusconi, 85, in his bid to be elected President of the Italian Republic.

No stranger to a touch of theatre, the former prime minister, billionaire, Bunga-Bunga artiste, once earned a crust as a crooner on cruise liners. At 85, his complexion has the sheen of all-weather teak garden furniture. Were he to be elected in this year’s presidential elections,  he would be 92 when the term expires in 2029. He thinks he is well up to the task – and achieving the presidency would be the pinnacle to a colourful career which has brought as many collisions with the courts as the Italian electorate.