Dead man still walking

Monday, 25 August 2008 

After some initial excitement even Dennis Shanahan appeared last week to be starting to have his doubts on Costello’s imminent return to the leadership and that maybe The Australian’s world historical mission to shape Australian politics is going to have to wait for another day.

The Costello threat seems to have settled down to the story that he doesn’t want the job if handed to him on a plate, but he would want it if someone else challenged for it. Work that out.

It is funny to see how it is always posed as ‘someone’ challenging Nelson when we all know that they are just talking about Turnbull. That’s what all this is about. The old leadership has seen the erosion to the ‘brand’ that has happened under Nelson and for the last two months has tried to do something about. Nelson has had to ‘toughen up’ against Labor, going in hard on, er, alcopops and web-sites that list petrol prices.

The problem for them, as arises when they try to act on it in the Senate, is that they have no real convincing agenda from which to oppose the government’s fairly anodyne agenda. Standing up for Gippsland loggers who like a Bundy tipple does not really constitute a new base to launch a political fightback. In fact when it gets serious, such as on emission trading, the hard line is actually unpopular (nobody appears to suggest that this may be one reason why Nelson has drifted backwards in recent polls).

The political dilemma for the old leadership comes down to personnel when they try to replace Nelson. The problem for the old leadership is that they do not have a candidate that make a strong enough case in the party to challenge Nelson without letting Turnbull in. So, in a delicious irony, they have had to make one out of nothing from someone who they spent years denying the job. It doesn’t matter that the polls suggest Costello would turn even more voters off the coalition. It is just enough that he is popular among Liberal MPs for the same reason that coalition voters like him, he reminds them of a period that only a few months on is beginning to feel like the Lost Golden Age.

Costello’s interests in going along with this for the moment are pretty obvious – he needs to sell his book. Given that his political career has been one of a never-even-has-been, the only real interest in the book would have been the bitchy things he would have written about Howard. Linking it to the fate of the Liberal leadership is a god-send promotion for a book that otherwise might have given the publishers a bit of a challenge. For those in the media who have made a career over the last decade around the gaping hole that has become right-wing politics in this country, their interests in going along with this whole charade have also been painfully apparent. The trouble is, what happens after the book comes out?

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 25 August 2008.

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