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

endgame « Previous | |Next »
July 11, 2006

Ian McLachlan - the former defence minister and the third man at the leadership meeting on December 5, 1994 between John Howard and Peter Costello - released the note he has kept of that meeting:

"Meeting Monday Dec 1994. Undertaking given by JH at a meeting late pm in PC's room that if AD [Alexander Downer] resigned and Howard became PM then one and a half terms would be enough and he would hand over to PC. IMcL."

Mr McLachlan said that Mr Howard had made the offer to ensure Mr Costello did not challenge him to replace Mr Downer as leader in 1994. Howard and Costello came to an arrangement before Downer was tapped on the shoulder. So we have an agreement but not a deal? Calling it simply a discussion on the leadership succession is gilding the lily. Costello does not have the numbers to challenge Howard in 2006. So Costello tells the truth, adopts the high moral ground and achieves credibility at Howard's expense.

Golding1.jpg
Matt Golding

So Howard has taken an extra couple of years and turned them into a decade in power. The leadership tussle represents a political crisis for the Coalition---a fracturing of its unity and an effective political partnership.

The Howard-Costello era is over. The endgame happens at a time when the Howard Governemnt faces an big challenge in selling its controversial industrial relations policy, and is experiencing an unprecedented restlessness among ministers and backbenchers. So the government starts to come apart.The Howard era is indeed drawing inexorably to a close.

So what happens now? Howard is still the Government's best chance of winning an election next year.
Costello moves from cabinet or his Treasury portfolio? This is the kind of politics the loves--it will feed on this issue for days. And that adds to the tensions within the government doesn't it--since all their actions will be assessed in the context of the leadership. Disunity is death.

Meanwhile CoAG beckons.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:26 AM | | Comments (2)
Comments

Comments

So Costello tells the truth, adopts the high moral ground and achieves credibility at Howard's expense.

If only that were true, but in every pop poll taken in the last couple of days indicate the majority still believe Howard, despite his history. Go figure.

FWIW, my money is on the mad Monk being the next Lib leader. He would have knifed Howard about 30 seconds after the due date of any deal, not cooled his heels for another 5 years.

Ian,
Yep there is a big gap between the Canberra Press Gallery and the suburbs about Howard's history of playing fast and loose with words. Costello may have the moral high ground, but Howard has the numbers --- in cabinet, in the party room and, judging by talkback, in the electorate. So what happens? Costello ups the ante, and then steps back. Can things return to the way they were?

Laura Tingle in the AFR says:

Peter Costello, perhaps our most cautious senior political figure in decades, jumped off the precipice into new and unexplored territory. As he leapt, he dragged the government and the dignity of John Howard's prime N ministership kicking and screaming behind him.

She says that though Costello does not have the numbers he's not going to give one inch from here on in and the Prime Minister is on notice to that effect. Howard's moral authority has been undermined.

However, Howard wants Costello to forget that he was dudded on an 12-year-old undertaking and returns to being an effective deputy and Treasurer. I've always thought that Howard plans to fight the next election and go for a fifth term as Prime Minister.

Now that the internal unity in the Coalition has gone-- and the Coalition backbench gets really nervous--- the ALP must be breathing a sigh of relief. The cracks widen for them.