Matthew Dancona

The slow erosion of government

The slow erosion of government
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Black Wednesday exercises such a grip over our imagination that we sometimes forget that governments collapse because of the slow erosion that precedes the big storms. It is the drip-drip, not the tsunami, that does for them.

In John Major's case, it was the daily farce of Back to Basics and the never-ending saga of 'sleaze' - as much as Britain's ignomious exit from the ERM - that ensured electoral disaster for the Tories in 1997.

For Gordon Brown, the involvement of Alan Johnson in yet another donations story must be the cause of something approaching despair: were any of the candidates for the Labour deputy leadership paying attention to the (completely clear and straightfoward) rules set out in the 2000 legislation? As Gordon held forth about his 'moral compass' last year and signalled that the Blairite stables would be ruthlessly cleaned out, his colleagues were behaving with astonishing laxity and storing up trouble for the future. Hain, Harman, Johnson: who's next?