Australia's Tony Abbott survives leadership challenge - but remains 'one dumb knighthood away from oblivion'

The leader’s grip on power has slipped since last month when he drew widespread criticism for making 93-year-old Prince Philip an Australian knight

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Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott emerged politically wounded after withstanding a leadership challenge from within his party today, with many analysts doubting he can survive to lead his conservative government to next year’s elections.

The leader’s grip on power has slipped since last month when he drew widespread criticism for making 93-year-old Prince Philip an Australian knight on Australia’s national day. Many saw it as an insult to worthy Australians. Mr Abbott, in office for less than a year-and-a-half, survived a move by Liberal Party members calling for a secret ballot to decide who would be Prime Minister. They voted 61-39 to reject the motion.

Experts say he needed a stronger show of support to ward off future challenges if the government continues to endure sagging approval ratings. He would not survive another blunder, said Chris Kenny, a political commentator and former conservative government staff member. “He’s one dumb knighthood away from oblivion,” Mr Kenny told Sky News.

Mr Abbott described the vote as a political near-death experience, and promised he would lead a more consultative and collegial administration. “This has been a very chastening experience,” Mr Abbott told reporters.” It’s not often that something like this happens 16 or 17 months into the life of a government.”

He would not confirm or deny reports that he had asked his colleagues for six more months to lift his coalition’s popularity. The vote occurred before Parliament convened yesterday for the first time this year. The opposition centre-left Labour Party reminded Mr Abbott of how he rounded on former Prime Minister Julia Gillard when she fended off her rival Kevin Rudd in a similar ballot, by 71-31, in 2012.

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