We have previously shown that a Rankine vortex in a compressible fluid is unstable to a perturbation in cross section, e.g. to a slightly eccentric ellipse. This result is surprising, because compressibility leads to a loss of energy from the perturbed vortex by acoustic radiation. An explanation, valid for small swirl Mach numbers, was provided by Kop'ev and Leont'ev. For small Mach numbers the flow in the neighbourhood of the vortex can be treated as incompressible, from which it follows that the kinetic energy is greater for the circular vortex than for any other nearby shape. Thus the loss of energy by acoustic radiation will result in increasing departures from a circular cross section. We assert here that the instability is not inherently acoustic, but that any mechanism which can remove energy will result in instability. To support our contention, we examine the Rankine vortex in a concentric circular tube which has compliant walls. Linear theory first establishes that the instability exists in this case and an approximate theory for a small region of vorticity shows that the distortion increases indefinitely. This is confirmed, without the restriction on size, by a numerical solution of the integro-differential equation based on contour dynamics.