From the comments on an earlier post of mine comes this incisive observation by John64:

As per usual, Labor’s obsession with Abbott does them more harm and not a spot of good.

And this one too from Kevin Rennie:

Perhaps modern politics is more about image than about reality. And a contest amongst both media and commentariat to be the most outraged. Ironically too many were ready to chastise the tent embassy crowd for reacting hastily to incorrect information, only to do the same thing themselves to media reports.

Which is by way of introducing a “should read” article from this morning’s Sydney Sun Herald.

Michael Duffy, the author of Latham and Abbott (Random House, 2004), has talked again at some length with one half of his joint biography (and included a few observations as well from the other half on the current Leader of the Opposition).

But the Labor Party and the broader left continue to portray Abbott in extreme terms, as uncaring and anti-women and a fanatical Catholic. He appals many well-educated people. A former senior Liberal minister notes: “Most of my friends on the left and the right don’t like Abbott because of climate change and the boat issue. At the high intellectual end of the community, the antipathy is amazing.” In The Sydney Morning Herald the leading public intellectual Robert Manne described him as unprincipled, unthinking and unscrupulous.

These criticisms in part use Abbott as a proxy for an electorate from which the Labor Party and the left feel increasingly estranged and are of course a re-run of the attitudes common particularly during the first terms of the Howard government. Whatever their moral weight, they pose the risk of obscuring his electoral potential.

At some point before the next election, people will become more interested in who Tony Abbott really is. Many in the Labor Party hope for that day, believing that when the mask drops, the sight of the conservative Catholic ogre will be so horrific it will mark the end of his successful run.

Yet it’s possible what people will find will be – even more than in the 2010 election – a fairly ordinary bloke. This will be partly because he has always been more ordinary than others thought, and partly because he seems to have worked in recent years to make himself more so, in order to achieve the goal of prime minister. That discovery could be another surprise, for his foes and maybe for some of his friends.