THE art of a leadership change always looks so crisis-driven and spontaneous, but this is rarely the case.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb knew what he was talking about at the weekend when he said he suspected a conspiracy in the undermining of Tony Abbott, although he wasn't game to name names.
I've covered five blood-bath leadership changes in state politics and reported on one in Canberra when Paul Keating took his first shot at Bob Hawke in 1991.
Here's the common themes. The pretender knows they only have to wound the leader in the first strike and a second showdown will become inevitable. Hence Tony Abbott is a carcass, swinging slowly in the breeze.
The pretender often takes journalists into his or her confidence, which immediately compromises them and they become part of the conspiracy, but it's better than missing out on the scoop.
Spouses or family members of pretenders often become part of the campaign, backgrounding journalists on how able their partner would be as leader. That's happened to me a few times.
Journalists love leadership showdowns because it is a hell of an easier story to explain and get on page one than some dry old budget update or complicated reform.
"The pretender knows they only have to wound the leader in the first strike and a second showdown will become inevitable. Hence Tony Abbott is a carcass, swinging slowly in the breeze."
Journalists join in or are conscripted into wounding the leader, then get to feed off the carcass by saying he's so wounded he can't recover. It gives them more leadership dramas in coming months time, so they get multiple showdowns for the price of one.
There's no story in a leader surviving because that's it. By saying Mr Abbott can't recover the media are blessed with an ongoing commentary lasting up to a year before the beast finally collapses under the strain. It was predictable that no member of the Canberra press gallery was going to talk up the PM's chances of survival after Monday's vote. The name of the game is kill the leader, rather than kill the story.
Maybe Mr Abbott really is a dead man walking, but he was never going to count too many friends in the media after Monday, even among conservative commentators. They can all smell the carcass.
The downfall of a prime minister or premier is too salacious a bone to let go.
It's a feature of Australian political history, where the protagonists are usually known. However, the genius in the spill motion is that neither Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop had to commit themselves to the bear pit for the motion. They never challenged so Mr Abbott emerged from the spill with a hollow victory, where 40 per cent of his caucus opposed him, even without there being a challenger.
The Turnbull, or for that matter the Julie Bishop camps, are now just one Abbott blunder from the Lodge. It may well turn out that the challenger never has to challenge the boss because one more incident would force Mr Abbott to resign ahead of a party room spill.
Either the Turnbull or Bishop camps will progressively accelerate into overdrive to get this nasty business done, in time to give the new leader enough time to use all the powers of the prime ministership against Bill Shorten.
Time is short, with an election due by September next year.
An impatient, blood thirsty rat pack will be backgrounded daily.
The pretender then takes over without being burdened with stalking status. After all, Mr Abbott was his own worst enemy.
Now it's an even contest between the Coalition and Labor.
A thriller, and the rat pack could still claim, with hands solemnly over hearts, that they were just following a top story.