With Tony Abbott sacking Philip Ruddock as Liberal Party chief whip yesterday, it is certain Tony Abbott has weeks, not months, left in the top job, says Bob Ellis.

In his film of Richard III, Laurence Olivier, felled by arrows, writhes and twitches on the ground while Richmond’s soldiers jeer him. Tony Abbott is now in a similar twitching and writhing.

The numbers on Monday doomed him, but the Ruddock sacking brought forward the day of his execution. It may occur, now, before Chan and Sukumaran’s, in ten or 11 days’ time.

What is going on in the Prime Minister’s head? If the sneered response "brain damage" can be discarded – and maybe it can’t – it has to be to do with his Catholic upbringing and the consequent abiding habits of mind.

Under Catholicism, you ‘wipe the slate clean’ by Confession, and a number of Hail Marys, and all is well. You admit, with words, your sin, and expiate your sin with words and are then, being cleansed, allowed to sin again.

And to Tony Abbott, the words matter, only the words matter, and the deeds that follow can contradict them.

There will be "no more captain’s picks"; yet the meeting was brought forward, Credlin retained and Ruddock removed. He said "good government starts today", and a shambles ensues. It is revealed that child abuse occurred on Christmas Island, and like the Catholic church, he denies it, says he feels no guilt "whatsoever" and proposes to martyr Gillian Triggs for unveiling the truth: suicidal children, buggered by their guardians and bashed for talking about it.

And now we see Ruddock, past hero of ‘border protection’, auteur of the 2001 win, sacked.

It was almost certainly to do with his expression, and body language, when he revealed on Sunday it was Abbott, not he, who had brought the meeting forward, and it was, though he did not say is, a ‘captain’s call’.

It is likely now that Turnbull has about 47 votes, and five or six more will come across by the middle of next week.

And another spill vote will be put the following Monday, or Tuesday, or Thursday.

And Abbott and Hockey will go to the back bench and an early election occur, if the poll numbers surge, and they will, towards Turnbull, around Anzac Day, on April 30 perhaps; or soon after a well-crafted Budget comes down, and the Coalition’s numbers reach 49.

It is certain now Abbott has weeks, not months. He has tried the patience again of those who doubted him already and lost their regard forever. And now he is done and finished.

And writhing on the battleground.

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