Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones are distressed.
Their good friend and hero Tony Abbott is flailing from crisis to crisis, embarrassment to embarrassment. Struggling to develop a cohesive palatable message.
The polls are stubbornly bad for his government and it appears any credibility or integrity he had left in the eyes of the public is all but eliminated. Irreparably it seems.
Bolt and Jones spent years doing all they could to get their man in Canberra into government and it’s gone pear shaped remarkably quickly.
Abbott’s failure is their failure.
The community’s rejection of him is a rejection of them.
They are both, figuratively speaking, firmly in the Abbott Faction of the Liberal Party. The now dominant hard right capital C conservative faction.
They are his media minders, PR department, faciltators and attack dogs.
The last 3 election cycles, particularly since Abbott became leader, has seen a mass exodus of what was left of the small l liberal tradition inside the Liberal Party.
They were out of place and they knew it.
This is all an important context to understand the Bolt, Turnbull and Jones affair of the last week.
Tony Abbott is under pressure to turn around his sinking, rudderless ship and his media PR machine in the mainstream media is feeling it too.
The extreme nasty IPA driven budget was supposed to be accepted by the public against their best interests because it was “fixing up Labor’s mess”.
The public weren’t supposed to question it, but they have.
They see it as an assault on the “fair go” and their way of life.
Jones has used his Labor as “fire” and Coalition as “firefighter” analogy innumerable times.
It’s painfully tortured yet he perseveres.
Not surprisingly however it seems Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin has picked up on it and directed cabinet ministers to use the exact same fear mongering aggressive language to scare people into accepting this shocking budget.
Thankfully it’s not cutting through and people are resenting the broken promises and unfairness of the Abbott plan.
Abbott used fear and division aplenty in opposition but they are finding that it just doesn’t cut it anymore in government.
People want the “adult government” they were promised.
People don’t want to be scared, lectured or lied to by Tony Abbott anymore.
They are sick of the negativity and lack of vision coming from his government.
Enter Malcolm Turnbull.
A popular leader who is well liked in the community but on the fringe of the Coalition caucus.
The dinner Turnbull had with Clive Palmer was all it took to light a fire under the very sensitive and protective Abbott forces in the media. Perhaps at the behest of the Abbott Faction.
Bolt is paid to irritate and rile enemies of Murdoch. That’s his job. He does it well.
Recently however the enemy was a lot closer to home.
Bolt attacked Turnbull for having dinner with Palmer without permission. I wasn’t aware he had to seek permission for who he could socialise with privately?
It was obviously not a “secret meeting”. Canberra’s a small place.
This didn’t stop Bolt saying Turnbull was conspiring against Abbott and being disloyal.
Apparently Abetz and Pyne need to be consulted for Turnbull to have a casual dinner with Palmer.
This is the Bolt/Jones line.
The fact they weren’t told is supposedly the smoking gun.
Turnbull didn’t reject out of hand the idea the Bolt and Jones attacks were coordinated. The idea holds a lot of water.
They are clearly trying to reassert the hard right of the Liberal Party in the face of polls showing Turnbull would be a popular leader.
They want him put in his corner and nervy MPs warned off even considering switching their vote to save their own skin.
The Alan Jones interview with Turnbull was something to behold.
Screeching, heavy breathing, condescending, lecturing and at times hysterical.
Jones is clearly feeling the pinch.
Now he knows what it’s like to be on the wrong end of popular opinion and to have concerted campaigns in the media and public to destroy his preferred leader.
Normally he’s the one dishing it out and dictating what he thinks should be popular opinion.
Not now he’s not.
Turnbull handled a fulminating Jones skillfully, occasionally calming his interviewer down before he erupted uncontrollably and breathlessly again.
The egos of Bolt and Jones are limitless. Their sense of power and self importance renowned.
Turnbull is absolutely correct to stand up to bullies and defend himself if he thinks it’s appropriate.
Was the dinner with Clive more than just casual? My sense is no.
But even if it was it has shown just how close Bolt and Jones are to Tony Abbott.
He relies on these nasty aggressive media characters to convince the masses he’s the saviour.
The masses are ignoring the preachers these days however.
It’s quite clever of Turnbull to push back so strongly against nasty public attacks. He wants to make it clear he won’t put up with it.
It also puts Abbott in a bind.
In a public spat between the three of them, whose side does he take?
His cabinet minister’s or his strong media allies’?
Turnbull is playing them off against each other.
One can’t help but think he’s doing all he can to damage their relationship and the role they will play in the life of the Abbott Government.
Recent articles by Matthew Donovan:
If they don’t know what they’re talking about, how are we supposed to?
Time to end Tony Abbott’s deceitful debt scare campaign
Shock jock fantasy land vs reality
Don’t let the Abbott Government Budget get one over you