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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

it only takes a little twist « Previous | |Next »
June 4, 2003

Funny thing parliamentary politics. Once upon a time the Coalition was sailing high with its hands firmly on the levers of power. The Labor Opposition was tearing itself apart. The Coalition was unassailable, as was the PM. The aura of statesman was being drapped around his shoulders. Myths were being constructed. You could see that this was the stuff of legend.

Then the leader says I'm staying on. The leader-in-waiting is closed out, but he accepts the decision even though he is shattered. He coveted the top job. He felt stabbed in the back. And he had been so loyal. He had worked so hard to provide the strong economic foundations for the Coalition's success.

That press conference was a defining moment. But What else can Peter Costello do? He gave a press conference and he put in an emotional performance that got the nation talking. But he could not spit the dummy. He had to adopt an acceptance mode and say that he will be the loyal deputy helping the leader rewrite the history books.

No doubt there are good reasons for delaying the transition of leadership in the Coalition Government. It looks to be the right call for the long-term interests of the Liberal party, the Coalition Government and the nation. So many will say in the Liberal Party.

But suddenly the media enframing is now in terms of disunity:---cohesion and unity have a question mark over them. The winning team is no more. Costello reckons his loyalty deserves more than being treated like this. That bitterness has its own momentum in politics. The whole dynamic has changed, just like that. And it impacts on the Opposition Labor Party, struggling with its issues of disloyalty, destablisation and leadership change.

The wheels turn. A new political cycle begins.

It was but a quiver of emotion in Parliament's blue press room. That's all it was. But the performance will be poured over by the Canberra Press Gallery. They love this playing out of politics. They understand the grand passions, hubris and human tragedy in political life. Screeds will be written about it within the context of the echos of political history of previous battles for the top job.

And Costello? Is he going to re-invent the role of deputy leader by placing the emphasis on a tolerant Australia as well as a prosperous and strong Australia. The implication? That Howard stands for an intolerant Australia----eg., on issues such as reconciliation and Hansonism.

Political theatre. It is political theatre based on everybody reading the tea leaves. But will the play continue with the Canberra Press Gallery putting the PM under scrutiny? Will the PM's gloss become tarnished? Is Costello going to become a countervailing centre of power within the Liberal Party in a low key way?

Act 2 begins after a short intermission.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:34 PM | | Comments (2)
Comments

Comments

If the presence of a competent Deputy was a Leader's main worry, Howard's position would be in serious danger, and Crean would be sitting pretty.

Norman,
its not a main worry. The post is suggesting that a new political cycle has begun. It only began yesterday.

You can trust the press to shift out every nuance of the unfolding. Stay tuned.