Stop this pretence

Wednesday, 15 August 2007 

Can we please stop pretending Costello is a serious challenger to Howard? It is not just that he is unpopular with the electorate. Nor is it just because he is arguably the most politically inept of the senior Liberal leadership, illustrated again by his latest clever move to suggest taxpayers fund a home for Treasurers, just over a month after the furore over how the PM was using taxpayer money on his home. It is not even that he clearly does not have the personal capacity to take the leadership for himself, preferring to mouth off to anyone who will listen while he waits for the top job to be handed to him on a plate at a Lodge dinner. No, the main reason he is not a challenger is that he is not a political alternative to Howard.

In fact this is why he is not even a serious contender to take over after Howard goes. Never mind that the Liberal party must by now be split between those who resent Costello for talking about challenging Howard and those who resent him for not doing so. His lack of political differentiation from Howard means that he will inevitably get caught up in the savage rewriting of Howard’s legacy that is bound to happen should they lose heavily, a blame game that is guaranteed to go well beyond the current consoling view that Rudd is just a younger Howard.

What is happening here is that the ruse by which Howard has ridden the vacuum in the Liberal party by pretending the one least likely to succeed actually will, is falling apart. This may all sound very Machiavellian but it has been done before (for example by Howard’s mentor, Menzies, with Casey) and Abbott’s unnecessary reassertion yesterday that Costello remains the natural successor did give the game away somewhat.

What is causing the strategy to come undone is that the government is losing influence with its supporters, this time in the media who no longer feel compelled to keep the government’s secrets (the sight of Costello denying he ever said those comments may be unedifying, but reporters like Brissenden sitting on an important story for two years for no other reason than they were asked to by Costello’s press secretary don’t look that great either). As it becomes clearer that not only is Howard out of ideas, but there is nothing coming from anywhere else in the Liberal party either, the only ‘challenge’ is from that silly old fool Tuckey accidentally sending a ‘Howard must go’ fax to the wrong people.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 15 August 2007.

Filed under Political figures

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