This article focuses on the strategic communication of four populist parties which have served in national and/or sub-national governments during the last two decades: the Lega Nord (LN) and Forza Italia (FI) in Italy, as well as the Lega dei Ticinesi (LDT) and the Schweizerische Volkspartei/Union Démocratique du Centre (SVP/UDC) in Switzerland. The analysis identifies two strategies which have been adopted by these parties (i.e. the ‘opposition within government’ and ‘role playing’), as they try to maintain their identity and balance their recourse to ‘spectacular politics’ with the responsibilities of office. Unlike others, this study provides little support for the idea that government participation must bring with it the ‘moderation’ of populists, at least as far as their strategic communication is concerned.