Kerry O’Brien — brutal but benevolent leader of 7:30 Report Land — asked the opposition leader last night whether there are “two Tony Abbotts”.

“Well, again, I think that most of us know when we’re talking to people or when we’re listening to people, I think we know when we can put absolute weight on what’s being said and when it’s just the give and take of standard conversation.”


This in a calamitous interview where “phoney Tony” (as Labor quickly trotted out) explained the difference between his scripted remarks — “to be taken absolutely as gospel truth” — and his off-the-cuff riffing, where he may, in fact, tell a few fibs.

There aren’t two Tonys, of course. As Bernard Keane writes today, there has only ever been one: gaffe-prone, ideologically driven, heart-on-the-sleeve Tony. The Tony we’ve grown to know and, just a little bit, love. The Tony who — and let’s be honest here, maaate — should never have been Liberal leader. A politician just a little too transparent for his own good.

Which is almost endearing as an opposition leader — and real trouble as a prime minister.