Alexander Downer hit the phones last week to editors, senior journalists and narky government MPs begging them to back off and leave his factional friend Santo Santoro alone. He even called Labor figures, some sources say – very different from the dog-eat-dog savagery that so wounded shadow minister Nick Sherry a decade ago at the height of travel rorts. “He is fragile, even suicidal,” the soft’n’cuddly headkicker said of the fallen minister.

So down, in fact, was Santoro, that he gave a long interview to his favourite journalist, Matthew Franklin, from his favourite newspaper, The Australian, that appeared on Saturday. No doubt it was all therapeutic. And no doubt the mobile phone clipped to his belt in the photos was only there in case he suddenly, desperately needed to summon help.

Sources say sad Santo is so in need of validation by proxy that he has been busy working the phones to shore up young Mark Powell’s preselection position and influence process of choosing his own replacement.

Observers are keen to see if Santo’s sad and sorry state means he is absent from sittings of the Senate this week, his last in politics.

They hope it does not impede Santo’s ability to answer to the scrutiny of his fundraising and spending activities, or assist with the defence of the federal Queensland Liberal MHRs also under investigation.

However, the conga line of Liberal parliamentarians and party members who have felt Santo’s wrath are not feeling sympathetic.

They have turned a deaf ear to Downer’s plea. To them, the Foreign Minister is either a fool or a tool.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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