It’s been brewing for a long time. Seventeen months, to be precise. Seventeen months since we’ve witnessed an all-out public spat in regards to the Prime Ministership and who indeed is the “best person” to lead the government and the Australian people.
Sure, there has been grumbling and mumbling amongst the ranks of the government MPs for some time now, but it took a monumental own goal on the scale of the Prince Phillip knighting decision for Tony Abbott to become truly unstuck.
To reflect on this almighty brain explosion for a moment – who on Earth let it happen? Abbott, obviously, but surely there was someone (anyone?) around him who could have said “steady up there mate, I reckon that one might go down like a cup full of vomit” and provided just a handful of the most compelling reasons why.
The truth of it is, really, that Abbott’s proactive decisions never seem to carry as well with the public than his reactive ones. In essence, he’s great at telling us what we don’t want (boats, waste, debt, Labor, terrorism, etc – you know the drill) but when it comes to reading what the public does want, he’s rather hopeless. Like grandma in a gay club, his radar is just completely off. Liberal MP Dr Dennis Jensen said of Abbott at the time of calling for a spill:
He is a “great war time leader but not a great peace time leader”.
Over the weekend, Abbott most definitely reverted to type. A significant proportion of his comments related to “not repeating the mistakes of the past” in terms of the Labor leadership circuses (plural). He made mention of being “chastened” and promised to be a more consultative and collegiate Prime Minister, but he’s been making similar statements on a semi-regular basis since 2007. And yet, Prince Philip.
In any case, Spill Day arrived amidst a flurry of excitement in Canberra. It had everything; wall to wall TV coverage, overly dramatic corridor processions, live betting odds and Annabel Crabb everywhere. My prediction about the result turned out to be eerily accurate – I was only 60/40 confident that Abbott would remain intact. The result of the party room secret ballot, once tallied, was delivered by Phillip Ruddock as being 61-39, with one informal vote.
Presumably this was Kevin Andrews voting for Julia Gillard.
A victorious battle for Abbott, sure. But what about the war? It’s now public knowledge that 40 of his nearest and dearest want him gone in favour of an unconfirmed replacement – even taking into account the political fallout that would be caused by another “knifing”.
The real winner of the day was surely none other than Bill Shorten. In just one week of keeping his mouth firmly shut and doing precisely nothing, he has witnessed his already intensely disliked opponent sustain yet another mortal blow.
It’s only a flesh wound.