Having just watched the media tear down their former darling, Lara Bingle (I tried to avoid it, but omnipresence defeated me), it seems likely we’ll now see the same with Tony Abbott.
The most common comparison has been between Abbott and Mark Latham, but we’ve seen plenty of examples of the celebrity style of reporting applied to rising politicians – Bronwyn Bishop and John Elliott were prime examples.
Celebrity politics has a well-established story arc – the fresh face, not scared to say what they think, with off-the-wall new ideas is built up until everyone is on the bandwagon. At that point, the only new angle points down, to the feet of clay. The alpha wolf in the journalistic pack is the one who can pick this moment to turn. Then the rest follow and before you know it, yesterdays fresh face is today’s wet-behind-the ears, authentic becomes aggressive, create ideas become a sign of flakiness. (sorry for all the mixed metaphors – it’s impossible to write this stuff any other way).
My guess is that Tony Abbott’s performance at the Press Club marks the turning point in the celebrity narrative. His bungle on maternity leave and the attacks from Keating and Costello set him up for the make or break performance in the movie. The fading star (Piaf, or maybe Rocky) has to go on stage and win over a hostile crowd. Instead, he ended up with rotten tomatoes.
To break away from meta-narrative for a moment, the debate reminded us that Abbott was an undistinguished health minister whose policy agenda, to the extent that there was a consistent one, went nowhere. His only contributions of any note were attempts to turn his personal prejudices into law. Now, he has no policy, and it’s a safe bet that anything he comes up with won’t stand up to even momentary scrutiny, as with his alternative to the ETS.