Some Liberals and even people from outside the party confronted Abbott before the February spill over the affair he was supposed to have been having with Credlin, the least original rumour in Australian politics. They were worried less about the reality than the perception.So the news is actually at least 3 months old. (And Hartcher might be a bit miffed about why it is that Savva can attract all the attention on this story, but it looks like no one reads his columns carefully!)
As I also wrote in December, it was clear that even News Ltd papers at the end of last year were making innuendo about their relationship. Here's what I wrote:
...this seems to have attracted little attention from the rest of the media today. (I find that odd. But I find it even odder that both News Ltd and Fairfax outlets have taken to innuendo about Abbott and Credlin - going skiing together, staying in France together, Tony sleeping on her couch instead of spending his allowance on an actual hotel room - and neither of them, nor their spouses, come out to complain about it. If I were the subject of such innuendo, and if I had not slept with my staffer, I think I could at least muster a press release of denial and then say I was not going to dignify it by addressing it again. But just remaining silent despite the increasing openness of the innuendo? Strange...)Now, since I wrote that, we have had Abbott being accompanied by his wife on overseas trips, which is pretty strong evidence that if anything was ever on, it had probably long since finished.
But amongst (non Right wing) journalists, the only one who I have noticed who outright doesn't believe the rumour is Bernard Keane, who tweeted that it was "a lie". I'd love to know why he thinks he can be so emphatic about that, given that the line every other journalist of credibility takes seems to me "I dunno, but it's a rumour that's been around a long, long time."
I note that the denials by Abbott and Credlin this weekend have been more along the lines of "we refuse to dignify this rumour with comment" rather than the more outright denial of "this is outrageous and hurtful to my family. There has never been any affair."
So this is a great and (almost) entertaining mystery.
Let's list the "pro affair" evidence:
* rumour of long standing amongst journalists and ALP members; but also believed by many Coalition parliamentarians as the only explanation for his devotion to her keeping her job, and of their strange physical closeness in public;
* lack of early and emphatic denial when clear innuendo appeared in press last year - even in Abbott friendly News Ltd papers;
* lack of threat of defamation;
* the example of history regarding politicians and denials of affairs with staffers;
* some public address I saw some time ago where Abbott was joking about believing he had broken all of the 10 commandments, save for the one about murder (people who joke like that are usually sending a message that they hope humour will mask)
* for God's sake, just look at every photo of them taken together for the last 5 years! They just look exceptionally close, and she has been by his side seemingly every minute when in public.
On the "no affair" side:
* Credlin talking once about how Abbott knew about and helped her with attempts to fall pregnant by keeping her fertility stuff in the fridge in his office. Would be remarkably unlikely that anything would be going on between them at that time;
* despite many anti Abbott rumours about his marriage being shaky, no clear evidence I have ever seen that Marg was ever planning on leaving him;
* Marg still travelling with him now;
* his children not disowning him, either.
Using my powers of Holmes like deduction, I think that by far the most likely explanation is that there was some sexual indiscretion between them at some point in time, one that "leaked" to some in Canberra, but that this was some years ago and (perhaps) was a very short term thing. This would explain quite a few things: the profile of Credlin some years ago (in the Australian?, the one where she talked about her fertility problems) which read as a pre-emptive strike about rumours of an affair; the unwillingness of either of them to talk defamation or to deny in detail any affair; the possible "giving the benefit of the doubt" of his wife and kids.
I am curious to see if I am ever vindicated in this theory.
And as to why this matters: politician's affairs generally don't, but if Abbot and Credlin had a "thing" going when he was trouncing around Australia on the election campaign as a family man with his daughters in tow, his hypocrisy would be a thing to behold. Especially given the appallingly sexist treatment Julia Gillard received on matters of her private life at the hands of Abbott and his supporters. And besides, it is hard to remember any other PM who has taken on such a high profile staffer who can directly share blame for loss of internal support for her boss. It's nothing like the interest in Jim Cairn's relationship with Junie Morosie, which really was just the conservative salaciousness of the day, as far as I know...
Update: the more I read the way Credlin and Abbott have responded with variations on a "I won't dignify this with a response" theme, the more I think I am right.