here in May. And what has changed?)
There was a breathless hush in the Close this morning, a barely audible murmur of repressed excitement rippling through the assembled throng ...
Could Dame Slap top herself? No, nothing unsavoury, just could this day's column exceed the dizzying heights of an assault on a passerby for daring to ask the whereabouts of a village in Sydney ... the subject of last week's most excellent effort.
There were cynics who said it couldn't be done, that having reached this exalted plane of street aggro, Dame Slap should give the game away - how to top perfection - but others still held out hope that the veteran could deliver one last sock to the chops of all those who blathered about villages, community, society, the whole damn pack of liberal greenie scum littering the festering earth.
Sadly, it turns out that Janet Albrechtsen is most like an Australian cricketer (hands up anyone who remembers Kim Hughes? Oh how charming).
Or perhaps a soprano searching for that climactic high C in the Libera me Domine in Verdi's Requiem.
Dame Slap's showing all the signs of an attack of the nerves, a panic attack. It's the sort of hysteria that also affects Manly and Collingwood supporters when they're gulled into an attack of the collywobbles
Yes, in Loosen up, Tony, to counter the fake Rudd (behind the paywall because Rupert needs your cash), she's turned life and performance coach.
Now she could have turned coach a long time ago, and noted that Abbott's ambling macho strutting - the pond can imagine him imitating gunslingers in shoot-outs as a child - is inclined to be a little off-putting.
But she didn't pay attention and now, very late in the day, she's been forced to give macho man a good slapping:
Campaign day three: Just in case no one is saying this privately to Tony Abbott - and more's the pity if they're not - here is a public plea.
Loosen up, Mr Abbott. You're looking too wooden, too tightly scripted, as if each word is a potential hand grenade.
Oh dear, who'd have guessed that Tony Abbott was really an Ent?
But before you think that Dame Slap is giving Ent-man the sort of treatment she'd dish out to an enquiring passerby, she does her best to dress the slap-down up with a hearty dose of Ruddster abuse:
And here's the real clincher for letting down your hair. Kevin Rudd is playing a brazen game of presidential politics so you need to tackle that head-on. Instead, you're making Rudd look normal and charming, which is a most curious thing because those who know the real Rudd know he is neither normal nor charming. Just ask his colleagues who expressed brutally honest appraisals of the nasty private Rudd.
Ah yes, that feels right, that feels good, and having got over the collywobbles, the coach spends several great pars denouncing the Ruddster and his superficial social media ways - it goes without saying that Dame Slap loathes social media, seeing as how MySpace was a complete waste of time for her immortal, don't get it, but I'll tweet like a doddering senile old fool anyway, master of mayhem, the mighty Rupe:
Put another way, the more you know him, the more you detest him. Again, just ask his colleagues.
Rudd understands this equation. That's why he is Mr Zippy and Australia's first social media Prime Minister, only last week announcing that he has recruited social media gurus from Barack Obama's election campaign. The fleeting, superficial nature of posting "selfies" on Instagram, tweeting and posting Facebook updates is perfect for Rudd's purpose: to inject just enough of the zipping PM into people's lives, but not too much lest voters join the ranks of those who know him and therefore loathe him.
No wonder the man never stands still.
Okay, the man is scrum, but there's no good taking the ball through the pockets.
You've got to take it up the guts, do the hard yards, tackle the fancy pants and take him down, bowl him a bouncer or three, don the lycra and the togs, and get on the bike, or ride a wild one:
Abbott is the opposite of Rudd. He doesn't play the social media game in earnest. Unlike Rudd too, those who know him well vouch for him as a highly intelligent, hugely decent, down-to-earth bloke - and that's from those with different politics from his.
Oh dear, does he talk of villages?
Yet the Abbott on our television screens is now so far removed from the real Abbott, it's getting hard to watch. He speaks too slowly. He repeats himself too much. Just as it was irritating when Julia Gillard spoke so slowly as if we were nincompoops.
Julia Gillard? Is there a greater crime possible in the world of Dame Slap?
Sadly it seems that the scales have fallen from Dame Slap's eyes at just the wrong time. She's suddenly looked at her team captain and seen wooden spoon material. Sort of like Melbourne:
The plea that Abbott loosen up is not about running a "real Tony" campaign. Gillard tried that and voters rightly rejected it as contrived. It's not about Rudd-style selfies in the bathroom with a shaving cut blotted with toilet paper either. Voters will reject endless narcissism in the end. And that's the thing about voters. They aren't stupid. Yet Abbott's current demeanour treats voters as stupid, as if voters can't be trusted with the real Abbott, they won't get him. Forget about trying to get voters to like you. Much better that voters respect you. John Howard worked out that critical distinction long ago. And getting voters to respect you depends on respecting voters, trusting them by trusting yourself to be yourself.
Oh dear, is there a chance to say anything positive, something optimistic, something vapidly doting and sickeningly affectionate?
Back in late 2009, Abbott stood apart from the hermetically sealed, carefully controlled politico-bubble of Canberra. He had an authenticity as a man full of contradictions and human failings that brought him closer to the rest of us. We saw his disarming candour, the blokey bloke able to talk about deeply personal experiences about an adopted son who turned out not to be his. We saw the quintessential Aussie bloke - the volunteer firefighter, surf lifesaver who does marathons for charity, raises money for a women's shelter - who also writes books about political philosophy, likes a beer and lets down his guard enough to utter an unscripted "bullshit".
Perhaps Abbott's success as Opposition Leader explains the present stilted conundrum. His extraordinary discipline in uniting the Liberal Party and the Coalition and removing two sitting prime ministers by exposing their incompetent governments also has taken hold of his personality. It prevents us seeing the real Abbott.
Oh no, could the behaviour of a natteringly negative, rabid, frothing and foaming head butter have possibly obscured the real Tony?
The Opposition Leader needs to recalibrate his campaigning style to counter Rudd, who is nothing if not a brilliant campaigner. Lousy at governing, Labor will worry about that other Rudd later. Abbott needs to counter the fake Rudd by being the real Abbott. When announcing policies, let voters see him smile and joke, speak normally and warmly.
He can do it. Walking through Sydney's Chinatown last Sunday, Abbott was relaxed and people embraced him. They wanted selfies with him.
And at that point you realise what a terrible coach Dame Slap makes. Because right at the start she abused selfies as a slick form of superficial instagrams of the social media kind. And now she wants Abbott to do selfies.
And having jumped the shark, she proceeds to nuke the fridge. Whose fault is it? Why it's the media, and in print form, that means the Murdochians, who just want to do solid, earnest, dumb, wooden, generally inept and hopeless Tony down.
Even if it means taking a few risks, making a few mistakes, the real Abbott beats the robotic man of the past few months.
You can't blame Abbott for being guarded. He is surrounded by a "gotcha" media, waiting for mistakes and failing to tell a straight and honest story about him. Instead, they have been Labor lackeys, trotting out anti-Abbott lines about misogyny and negativity. Even longer pieces about Abbott have done a very selective job exploring the real Opposition Leader. Whether it's David Marr's tome, Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott, or a Four Corners episode on the national broadcaster cutely named The Authentic Mr Abbott, there are no mentions of Abbott's charity runs or his work as a volunteer teacher in indigenous communities. Nothing that tells you about the decency of the man. If the cameras aren't invited, the media isn't interested, unless it's about his religion or old brouhahas from days in student politics.
Indeed. And well might you scour the la la land of News Corp for reports, as noted by a pond correspondent, of News Ltd apologises to Barbara Ramjan over Tony Abbott punch story (and apparently ponied up some cash along with the apology). In fact you're more likely to find it in an English rag than in the pages of the feral abusers, News Corp apologises to woman who accused Tony Abbott of aggression.
The newspaper's lawyer told the court: "The Australian apologises to Ms Ramjan for any suggestion that she lied about those events and acknowledges that the recollection of those events was contested by all participants, who were sincere in what they recalled. The Australian did not intend to suggest that one account should prevail over another."
As for the real Tony Abbott and the matter of misogyny and negativity?
What a pity that Dame Slap wasn't around as a life coach when it mattered ... when Abbott forever crossed a line with the pond, and posed in front of those pathetic, wretched signs:
You can't take that sort of thing back, but only now has Dame Slap discovered that her hero has issues, and that some people have memories, and that moderate people, people who just want a good game, would rather have a selfie with a wombat than a selfie with Tony Abbott.
Never mind, what fun to see Dame Slap in a state of fear, consternation and doubt, so extreme that even the ritual bashing of the Ruddster provides no satisfaction:
Whereas Rudd is hubris on steroids, Abbott has a healthy dose of self-doubt. That, and his self-deprecation, make him appealing at a personal level. But he needs to banish that for now, believe he is a winner, relax into that role and let us see more of the real Abbott even if that means letting more of the cameras in too. With 30 days to go, there's no time to lose.
See more of the real Abbott? The one posing in front of "ditch the witch" signs, and posing with bananas and seafood and lamb chops, while indulging in feral nattering negativity, the one given endless coverage while he went about his faux business of riding bikes and pumping up the endorphins, while muttering about invisible substances, climate science and the joys of copper in a world of fibre?
Yes please ...
Which barely leaves time for the pond to note that in the usual way, the reptiles at the lizard Oz are at it again in relation to the NBN.
Here's how they always do it? They rarely tackle it head on themselves, instead they ferret out a rogue bull, preferably someone who claims that serving on Kim Bealzeys ministerial committee on telecom reform gives him some kind of street credibility.
Yes come on down Kevin Morgan and scribble NBN no threat to Mr Murdoch for the reptiles at the lizard Oz.
It's the standard litany of abuse, but what's particularly funny is that Morgan blathers on about pay TV and business models and the NBN, without once mentioning the elephant in the room. Piracy. Instead he comes out with bizarre statements like this:
...although the internet offers users the freedom to download any movie they choose, if you do that too often and it's not part of a service provider's package, broadband bills will soar given the NBN's underlying usage-based pricing.
Those days are already gone. You can, if you like, download more movies than you care to think about or watch, online and onstream at all times, and easily contained within the sort of broadband caps allowed by most plans these days - you can, if you desire, for $65 bucks a month get a 100gb + 100gb NBN-2 plan from iiNet right now.
If you allow 2gb a movie, more than enough for 5.1 on a 60" screen, that's a 100 movies a month. Or three a night and change.
Morgan's the sort of clown who really doesn't have a clue, and needs to get out and mingle with the under thirties, and if big Mal rolls out his half-baked, downsized, version, it will pose an even bigger threat to closed systems such as Pay-TV, as people realise that you can indulge in cable-cutting and save a fortune ...
It's funny to watch how the hacks have reacted with sensitivity and have rushed to assure all and sundry how on side they are with high speed broadband, as if all those stories from a few years ago were just a bad dream, and we've all forgotten Abbott orders Turnbull to demolish NBN.
The truth is, the bleeding obvious has been out and about for a long time, and Morgan might dismiss social media as nut jobs, but if not wanting to live in a Murdochracy is nutty, then count the pond as nutty. And instead of reading Morgan, why not read Why Murdoch's media is gunning for your NBN. Written back in February before the current fuss, but as true now as it was then.
The pond sees up close - too close in fact - the reality of old industries struggling to devise business plans, to accommodate the new realities while controlling content in ways that will avoid piracy while delivering services that will result in subscriptions and stickability, and it's a tragic sight ... a bit like the reptiles gathered in their bunkers behind their fortifications at the lizard Oz ...
Let it all come down ...