After feverish Canberra press gallery comment and speculation, it seems Tony 'OTT' Abbott has avoided challenges from Mal Brough and many other name suggestions to carry on as prime minister — at least until next week. Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones comments.

That’s it then. OTT prevailed. For now. Then again, he wasn’t up against much.

Under Liberal Party rules, cabinet members – and their parliamentary secretaries - sign what amounts to oath of loyalty to the Leader. That means none of the upper clique can just put their hand up and challenge.

Accordingly, the need for the so-called stalking horse.

That expression is not really descriptive, the role is more sacrificial lamb with a bit of suicide bomber thrown in. Whoever accepts the burden must trust their side will get up otherwise there goes pre-selection next time around.

There were three possibles put forward by the MSM for this unenviable gig — Dr Dennis Jensen, Warren Entsch and Mal Brough.

Jensen, by the way, holds a doctorate in materials science, so he’s not much chop when the heart attacks are being handed out.

All three have at least one thing in common — they are sitting on very handy margins. Jensen, member for the WA seat of Tangney, got up in 2013 with a 2pp margin of 29.34%; Brough in Fisher enjoys a margin of 19.5%; and Entsch in Leichhardt 11.2%. Tangney and Fisher are blue-ribbon. Warren got washed away in the 2007 Ruddslide, but was returned to parliament in 2010.

Jensen, a South African by birth and a former Howard Golden Boy, scores a 9.8 on the right wing Richter Scale. In 2006, Jensen lost a pre-selection battle against former Senator Robert Hill staffer Matt Brown, but the WA Libs state council overturned the decision and gave Jensen the guernsey for the sinecure seat. He did such a good job that he again lost pre-selection in 2010. Again the WA state council stepped in, denied his rival and enforced Dr J’s pre-selection. He is a climate denier who boycotted the Stolen Generations apology — he told the Abos to get over it. He is dead against Adam and Steve.

Entsch is a more complex man, although still simple. He was 46 before entering politics, having worked his way from RAAF aircraft fitter to real estate agent and crocodile catcher (contemporaneously!) to company director. He espouses sympathy for those suffering mental illness, but, when Opposition Whip, watched dispassionately from the sidelines as Peter Slipper was forced to the brink of madness.

In a Fairfax article dated October 2014 and titled 'The black dog roaming Parliament House' he is on record as saying,

I always feel for someone who is getting beaten up by the media – what you go through from a mental health perspective is absolutely intense.

For some people it is the final straw.

A Grade A hypocrite. He is solidly on record as supporting Adam and Steve but appears comfortable being stymied by his less tolerant colleagues in this regard.

Warren opened a Twitter account in November 2009 but has yet to actually send a tweet. Just as well.

That brings us to Mal, a perennial favourite. Mal is also Twitter-shy.

On 4 January, he congratulated Australia Zoo on its opening of Bindi’s Island, but then bugger all until Sunday 31 January – the eve of OTT’s public plea at the National Press Club – when he tweeted disingenuously:

On Tuesday 1 February Mal fronted a press conference:

"Let me say right up front, unequivocally, I have no intention whatsoever of challenging the Prime Minister for the leadership of the Liberal Party. Can I say that again? I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of challenging the Prime Minister for the leadership of the Liberal Party."

But, if you are a walking lubricant, things are never that restricting.

Mal went on:

"Do I unequivocally support the Prime Minster? No I don’t…It’s a critical support."

Mal’s sentiment set the theme for a fourth amigo to emerge from the political netherworld, albeit belatedly. Arthur Sinodinos – he of the squirming, career ending ICAC performance – apparently tiring of the view looking directly up from the canvas, decided he’d have a go too.

ABC reported him saying:

"I've always supported Tony Abbott. My support for him has been based on his performance, his courage, his capacity to make the right calls for the country in opposition and in government," he told Sky News.

"But that support ongoing is not unconditional.

"It's based on being able to grapple with the issues we face at the moment, which appear to have impacted on our standing in the polls."

And maybe a condition is to be allowed back into the kennel.

They all squibbed.

So, that’s it. Put the popcorn away for now. Until Rupe tweets ‘Abbott’s gotta go’, he’s not going anywhere.

Isaiah 11.6:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

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