I regret that some of my words over the last fortnight might have given the impression that I thought Kevin Rudd was in no danger, and that the whole idea of a challenge from Julia Gillard was a beat-up, nothing more than a product of Chris Mitchell’s fevered imagination.

This, of course, was completely mistaken: what I meant to say was that Gillard had the numbers and would be prime minister before the end of the month.

Except that I don’t think I really was mistaken. The fact that a beat-up was successful doesn’t alter the fact that it was a beat-up. I still believe there was no basis for a challenge when News Ltd told us there was, that the polls did not say what it told us they did, and that Gillard was not plotting against Rudd but only moved when she judged (whether rightly or not is now academic) that the media hysteria had damaged him beyond recovery.

The Australian deserves congratulation, but its achievement is creating its own reality rather than accurate reporting of what was really happening. We may legitimately question whether that is the proper role of the media, and whether the success heralds a threat to our democracy.

It reminds of nothing so much as the apocryphal story of the young man who murdered both his parents, and then craved mercy from the court on the grounds that he was an orphan.

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