PM was always going to cry 'cancelled'.
The arc of Scott Morrison's deliberately cultivated culture war on Katherine Deves inevitably led to this: the unseemly sight of a Prime Minister dismissing criticism of rank bigotry as an attempt to silence.
It was a "pile-on" on Tuesday. Then, like clockwork, Morrison escalated his rhetoric.
"What I won't allow is for those who are seeking to cancel Katherine simply because she has a different view to them on the issue of women and girls in sport," Morrison said on Wednesday.
"I'm not going to indulge that because, you know, in this country, I think Australians are getting pretty fed-up with having to walk on eggshells everyday, because they may or may not say something one day that's going to upset someone."
Let's be clear: this is a woman who compared the anti-trans fight to a battle against Nazis, who claimed many trans women are sex offenders.
She has apologised for the worst of the comments but, especially as another of Morrison's captain's picks in NSW, both need to explain why Deves is the right person to represent a community which includes the very minority she degraded.
There are certainly Australians who believe asking those questions is creating a field of eggshells. But the Prime Minister cultivating them by design is worrying to many, including those in his own party.
ELECTION UNDER THE MICROSCOPE:
What Morrison means by "cancelled" is deliberately vague, and he chose not to clarify when pressed on Wednesday.
The term, like so many culture war flashpoints in Australia, is an import from America. There, talk show hosts opine on an endless stream of mediums - tv, radio, print - about their voices being silenced.
Deves has the backing of the most powerful man in the country, a direct and sympathetic line to the after-dark crew on Sky News. There is not a single outlet in the country who would turn down a chance at an interview.
That's more opportunity to air her opinions than the vast majority of Australians can ever hope for.
But at the eleventh-hour, she cancelled herself, walking away from an opportunity to defend her stance at a community Q and A on Tuesday evening.
Some view the drip-drip-drip of old, bigoted tweets as death by a thousand cuts for Deves' candidacy.
But the comments were no real surprise, they were baked into what we knew about her. They must have been front of mind when the Prime Minister overrode normal party procedure to drop her into Warringah.
And with just a day left to dump her, it's clear he views the fracas as an opportunity to speak to religious communities in typical Labor heartland.
He wants this fight. He always wanted to cry "cancelled".
To bolster the plan, Dominic Perrottet has joined an illustrious group - including Emmanuel Macron - whose private text messages to the Prime Minister have ended up on the front pages.
The texts show the NSW Premier backing Morrison's stance on Deves, putting him at odds with an incensed moderate wing of the state Liberal Party.
Both camps deny leaking them.
But Perrottet, a conservative desperate to tout his coalition-building with the moderates, has much more to lose from them being aired.
And in a raucous press pack jostling for attention, Morrison studiously avoided those who mentioned the texts.
The line he wanted now aired, he tidied his papers and walked away.
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