Leading article: Arrivederci Berlusconi. At last

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We miss him already. Many journalists will be crying into their cups for a long time, now that Silvio Berlusconi is finally off.

The melancholy is deepened by the fact that the showman is likely to be replaced by Mario Monti, a figure who rivals Romano Prodi in the dullness stakes – another economist who is also a keen cyclist. It seems to be a fatal combination.

Berlusconi entered politics to save the nation (if you believe his supporters) or to protect his fortune (as his opponents prefer). He accomplished the latter, but at the expense of the former. His advertising flair made him a genius at winning elections, acutely aware of the prejudices and susceptibilities of the middle class from which he came; scandal after scandal did little to damage his ratings. As someone remarked, Berlusconi was not the Teflon but the Velcro premier – everything stuck to him, but none of it made any difference.

Once he has gone, we may begin to see his positive qualities, in particular his canny assessment of people, which led him to appoint Mr Monti a European Commissioner in 1994, and his genius at political manoeuvring. Yet the larger judgement is unlikely to change: he never had a clue what to do with power, apart from looking after number one. He was bad for Italy, bad for Europe. That he is finally stripped of power is a relief.

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