With regional elections due later this month, the government needs to be seen to be doing something about corruption, for two reasons. First, Mr Berlusconi has no convenient excuse for it. He may have persuaded many Italians that his legal difficulties are the result of a conspiracy by left-wing prosecutors and judges. But this scarcely explains the latest inquiries into corruption.
Second, tales of shady entrepreneurs pocketing taxpayers’ money and paying for public servants to visit prostitutes may shock Italians more than the often abstruse financial accusations levelled at Mr Berlusconi (most of which, including the alleged bribery of Mr Mills, concern his activities out of office). And although none of the latest scandals directly involves the prime minister, they suggest that corruption has become rife on his watch. That may not be a surprise given the impunity that Mr Berlusconi’s governments have extended to so many crooks in suits.