Poor Costello, used again

Friday, 14 September 2007 

Tony Abbott, Howard’s real right hand man, gave the game away a bit on ABC radio yesterday when he stressed that Costello represents no policy difference from Howard, thereby squashing flat Costello’s rather feeble attempt to present an alternative agenda the day before.

In many ways, Howard’s ‘team’ strategy just continues the way he has used Costello before, flattering the Treasurer and presenting him as a feasible successor, not because Howard thinks Costello is, but in order to manage the party. By now promoting Costello as his successor, Howard hopes it will quieten discontent in the Liberal party long enough to get him to the election. The Treasurer’s complete inability to launch his own political challenge makes him ideal for the purpose (you could not imagine Howard promoting a more credible challenger like Turnbull in the same way). Costello will be given prominence while the party remains unstable, but if it settles down, expect to see Costello brushed aside. In a way, it is a little cruel to watch.

The problem for Howard is that this time his use of Costello, while helping manage the party, has had negative electoral consequences. It is not just because the PM has temporarily needed to give higher prominence to a less popular figure, as Liberals are already pointing out. His talk of retirement highlights the policy exhaustion of the government. As this is the real issue, rather than the leadership, there is not much Labor can do with all the shuffling around of the last few days, other than to highlight the confusion and the Liberals’ policy vacuum. Fortunately for them they have not gone down the 2004 route of making an issue of Costello taking over, as though he was something to worry about.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 14 September 2007.

Filed under Political figures

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