Malcolm brings the ratings. The ABC’s heavy political night last night certainly drew the viewers. The ratings weren’t as high as they had been last week when the deed was done, but they were very solid numbers nonetheless, showing once again an appetite for long-form political journalism after the dust has settled.

In terms of ranking, Australian Story did best with its reworking of the 2009 story on Malcolm Turnbull. It had 1.492 million people across the country, including 1.051 million in the metros and 441,000 in the regions. That made it the second-most watched program across the country last night after the The X FactorFour Corners attempt to explain the replacement of Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull managed 1.391 million national viewers — 994,000 in the metros and 397,000 regionally.

7.30 with Leigh Sales’ interview with Malcolm Turnbull averaged 1.379 million national viewers, with 970,000 in the metros and a solid 409,000 in the regions. And Media Watch benefited too — with 1.275 million national viewers as it explained the essential powerlessness of the conservative/hard right media commentators and shock jocks such as Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones. And Q&A with “Zinger” Bill Shorten did well with 923,000 national viewers. — Glenn Dyer

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Bolt v Mitchell (round 3). Does Turnbull’s ascension mark the end of Liberal conservatism? News Corp’s papers have taken rather different lines on the issue. Andrew Bolt, one of Abbott’s fiercest loyalists, on Friday urged The Australian to cease it’s calls for Liberal party unity, arguing that it “should be slower to now insist others fall in dutifully and loyally behind Turnbull”.

Meanwhile, Monday’s Oz brought news from News Corp Australia chief Julian Clarke, who called on the nation to fall in line behind the new PM. The piece featured a line from Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, who mused on why his newspaper had taken such a different line to the one Bolt would prefer.

“Bolt’s audience includes many conservative retirees whereas The Australian’s readership is younger, rich, better educated and working in legal, political or the business community … These people don’t read the Tele or Bolt.”

Bolt, a very careful reader of the Oz, wasn’t going to take this lying down. On his regular 2GB show with Steve Price last night, the columnist railed against the editor. He said by sheer virtue of the size of his audience, more educated people in the educated communities to which Mitchell referred probably read him than the heavily subsidised paper.

“I just think Chris Mitchell is positioning The Australian as the News Corp paper that can do business with Malcolm Turnbull … It was a pledge of love for Turnbull … to try to assert the position of the Daily Telegraph as a paper. The Daily Tele is a paper with far more [of a] finger on the pulse … one that actually has political clout. I think the Telegraph has shown far more political clout lately than The Australian … Chris Mitchell should, instead of slinging off at other publications and columnists within the News Corp empire, inquire why he hasn’t got himself an audience to match those of us in the rest of the empire. Probably, if you got an honest figure out, [he’s] spending $20m a year more on his paper than it actually earns. For that kind of subsidy from the rest of the empire which he disparages, he might actually have a more popular product.”

It’s far from the first time Bolt has launched a personal attack at Chris Mitchell (though he says he’s only responding to provocation). He butted heads with the paper over associate editor John Lyons’ reporting in the past, as well as over its coverage of the indigenous recognition referendum. The dispute was settled, Bolt suggested on his blog earlier this year, by Rupert Murdoch’s arrival.

He took up the theme again last night.

“Put it this way, Steven. Chris Mitchell has had a number of strange outbursts of personal vendettas against me. He called it off a couple of days before Rupert Murdoch came to town. Now that Rupert Murdoch is away in America, it seems to be on again. This is unprofessional behaviour — it really is. People in News Corp must have a look at whether this is worth doing.”

The station then took calls from listeners to ask them whether or not they were really retired old conservatives. — Myriam Robin

Sheridan’s screed. Who now dares say that The Australian does not break new ground in journalism? Today’s front page “Exclusive” by Greg Sheridan (“Abbott faces his future, with a little help from friends”) sets a benchmark no other media outlet can hope to match.

Sheridan’s 1200-word piece (spill to page 6), contains not a single new fact, and not a single quote — sourced or unsourced. It is sheer word-processor doodling — journalistic junk dressed up to look like inside knowledge and analysis.

The purported sense of Sheridan’s wall of words is that opinion is divided among the friends and political associates of our recently departed PM as to whether Abbott should stay on in Parliament. Gosh, what a scoop! Various positions are ascribed to: “some party elders”, “others committed to a more broadly conservative view”, “those advising Abbott”, “those suggesting to Abbott”, “those arguing to Abbott”, “the voices urging Abbott” and, when all else fails, “some might argue”.

Yet not once could Sheridan put a name or quote to the propositions that followed. Nevertheless, for the editors of The Australian, this constitutes an “exclusive”.

The unpleasant truth is that the whole piece is a thinly disguised spruik by Sheridan urging his old university friend Abbott to remain in politics. The dumped Liberal leader is described as: “a giant of conservative politics”, “the most important figure in conservative Australia”, “instinctively attracted to good works … things which somehow have never got the public recognition they deserve”, with a “naturally ebullient, engaging and quintessentially Australian personality” who will “in time have a place in the pantheon of Liberal heroes”.

Had enough? No, Greg’s not finished with larding on the praise. His uninterrupted bursts of sunshine even fall upon Abbott’s wife, Margie, described as “the very embodiment of poise and decency in public life”.

But despite all this shameless ballyhoo, Sheridan is too bashful to say directly what he clearly thinks himself. Instead, he puts his opinions in the mouths of (nameless) others. Thus, “those arguing to Abbott that he would be best advised to stay also have his best interests at heart” and “they also think Abbott’s continued presence in parliament would in the long run be a mighty benefit to the Liberal Party itself”.

And just in case you might doubt the soundness of those views, Greg assures us they come from “every sensible person on the centre-right, including those who are urging Abbott to stay in politics”, and that “the voices urging Abbott to stay around are important voices, close to him, with much merit in their arguments.” I wonder who he had in mind? — David Salter

Front page of the day. It hasn’t been a great week for David Cameron, but we are mostly choosing this for all of the pig puns …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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