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a window on power « Previous | |Next »
December 15, 2007

Paul Kelly had an interesting column in the Weekend Australian that opens up a window into the inner sanctum of political power in Canberra that we citizens rarely see. What we saw courtesy of Kelly was the strange tensions within the Cabinet of John Howard around him being a problem for the return of the Coalition to power. Kelly says

Howard offered the cabinet the chance to obtain his resignation. Howard's position was that he preferred to stay and fight the election but he would offer the cabinet an alternative. He was prepared to resign the next week with no partyroom ballot and no political bloodletting subject to conditions. Howard's terms were authentic but daunting. Ultimately they proved too difficult for the Liberal Party in the most intense leadership crisis of Howard's 11 years of power.....The core condition for Howard's resignation was vesting the political responsibility in the cabinet, not himself. It was one of the most remarkable conclusions about his survival reached by an Australian prime minister. But it was flawed: Howard was saying he would resign, but he wanted the cabinet to carry the responsibility. If it came, it would be a resignation without conviction.

Howard knew that the Coalition would lose the election and that he would lose his seat of Bennelong. Kelly says that Howard felt obliged to offer his political head, but his ministers had to become the executioners. The truth is that Howard still didn't believe in a transition; he didn't think Costello was the party's saviour, but if the cabinet really wanted Costello, then it could have him.

The cabinet wasn't willing to accept Howard's condition of the cabinet taking full public responsibility for his departure. As we know the majority of the ministers held that the best outcome for the Coailtion was for Howard to resign of his own volition. However, they were adamant that Howard must volunteer his resignation, removed from any impression that he had been tapped on the shoulder or was being forced out.

What was interesting is that though nearly all ministers felt the people had stopped listening to Howard they could not do anything to effect change to try and save themselves. They were willing to go down with the ship.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 03:05 PM | | Comments (0)
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