AND so, a chap who refers to women's private bits as ''shell-less mussels'' was to be allowed to remain Speaker of the House of Representatives, the most powerful job in the chamber, even if he hadn't occupied the chair for six months.

Until last night, when Peter Slipper gathered his own soiled robes and made the entire hateful day redundant.

The screeching of the most senior members of the government and opposition yesterday was the sound of Parliament scraping the bottom of its barrel.

If you hadn't yet discerned it, you needed only to witness the vote at the end of the viciousness. It was a strange viciousness for this normally tumultuous House: barely a murmur of interjection as the players went at it. Every vote would count, and no one could risk being thrown out.

By a margin of 70-69, the Honourable Peter Slipper was granted the chance to retain his job, with his annual salary of $333,462, plus majestic office and entertainment allowance, plus much international and domestic travel, plus whatever other delectations accompany a Speaker's high office.

Slipper wasn't there to see the vote or to hear the Parliament scraping its barrel. But he heard it from a distance, and ended up making it all a ghastly mistake.

His only cheer in recent times, you'd think, was the knowledge the Gillard government, along with the Greens' Adam Bandt and independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Craig Thomson, felt he should be granted mercy by the Parliament. They all voted against the opposition's attempts to disrobe Slipper permanently.

Tony Abbott, riled at being lambasted as a sexist and a misogynist - and heartened by the declarations of his wife and daughters that he is a softie and a feminist - blew question time away by moving that Slipper be shunted from the Speaker's position forthwith and forever.

Slipper, thundered Abbott, trying to turn yesterday's attack on today's head, was not fit to be Speaker because he was (gasp) a misogynist. The texts in the court proved it, though Slipper's phone had apparently gone to auto correct when he described Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella as an ''ignorant botch''.

Reaching as far into the barrel as he could stoop, Abbott roared that the government, by shoe-horning the formerly Liberal Slipper into his job ''should already have died of shame''.

Julia Gillard could hardly defend Slipper, so she stuck the knife into Abbott for being an Alan Jones lickspittle and a misogynist. ''The government isn't dying of shame,'' she sizzled. ''My father did not die of shame.

''I will not be lectured on misogyny by this man. Not now. Not ever.''

And so it went. Until, hours later, Slipper finally got the message, stood before the chair he had so enjoyed, and went.

Follow the National Times on Twitter