On the eve of the ides of September 2015, Monday 14th, the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was assassinated in the Liberal Party room and his usurper, Malcolm Turnbull, assumed the imperial purple. One hopes this will end a strained period in the nation’s body politic – over the last 6 and a half years, there has been blood in the corridors of power, and 3 serving Prime Ministers elected by the people have been boned.
1/12/2009 – Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, is defeated by Tony Abbott by one vote. Mr Abbott becomes leader of the Coalition opposition.
24/6/2010 – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is confronted by a cabal of Labor Party MPs and told he is finished – he falls on his sword. Julia Gillard becomes Prime Minister.
26/6/2013 – Mr. Rudd’s successor, P.M. Julia Gillard, is deposed by Rudd.
8/9/2013 – Mr. Rudd is ejected by the voters and Mr Abbott becomes P.M.
14/9/2015 – after 2 years of a 3 year term, Mr. Abbott is cut down and Mr. Turnbull, whom he deposed in 2009, becomes Prime Minister.
Under the Westminster system, the Prime Minister is primus inter pares – she serves at the pleasure of the party in control of the lower house (Commons in the UK; Representatives in Australia). There is always a rump in a party that resent the leader – those overlooked for ministries, those on different parts of the political spectrum – and when a leader falters – when the poll health diminishes – rumblings start and the Praetorian Guard start sharpening their knives. It happens all the time, but not as frequently as in the recent past.
It seems as though Prime Ministers Keating (1991-96) and Howard (1996-2007) were our last of the Antonines. This casts Mr. Rudd as the Emperor Commodus, first poisoned and after rising again, strangled by the electorate. Ms. Gillard is thus Pertinax, hacked to pieces and ultimately beheaded, and this renders Mr. Abbott, who was universally traduced over trivia, as Didius Julianus (who shares an epithet with a later holy apostate), and we therefore hope Mr. Turnbull will turn out to be Septimus, who hung around for several years, despite, as Gibbon described, “The Praetorian bands, whose licentious fury was the first symptom and cause of the decline…”
It is encouraging to note that Mr Turnbull is the first Australian-born Prime Minister we have had since John Howard (Mr Abbott and Ms Gillard were both born in the UK and emigrated as youngsters; we understand that Mr Rudd originally came from Mars).
As to Julianus (Abbott), one recalls the great New Yorker cartoon by J. Mirachi of two old bastards at their club, obviously discussing President Nixon: “All right, so he isn’t a lovable man. Am I a lovable man? Are you a lovable man?” The folks don’t know what they’ve got till its gone.