The leadership void and lack of clear direction has occurred because: John Howard ruled “his” government with an iron fist; he used his own staff to monitor and micro-manage his Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries; he used some government members to ensure MP’s and Senators complied with his wishes. In their compliance, Liberal Ministers, MP’s and Senators have served the interests of the Liberal Party – a service Peter Costello mentioned when declining to be nominated as “leader of the Opposition”
Such “strong”, overbearing and dominating leadership stifles proper discussion, suppresses opposing views, inhibits the desirable effects of conscience & ethical principles, and stifles leadership qualities. One measure of the dominance exerted by John Howard is the number of his former Senators and Ministers now saying that they “told him (John Howard) to go”; Peter Costello has declined the leadership, having been “promised” the Prime Ministership which is now not there for him. They can say this because John Howard is no longer their leader, and he's not in Parliament any more.
Senior Liberal Party members are also now saying they should “dump WorkChoices” and support ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, and its attendant environmental targets. This is probably the correct policy direction, but it will seem to smack of hypocrisy, given their previous vigorous public defence of John Howard's position.
It also put members of the Coalition in the position of defending John Howard, even if they had misgivings. Here the list extends to WorkChoices; funding of public education, public hospitals and health; “children overboard”; attack dogs on the wharves; the Tampa affair, where Australia clearly breached its obligations under International Maritime Law; and immigration detention centres & “the Pacific Solution” to refugees. The drive to make unemployment at less than 4%, with rising inflation from the volume of money pumped into the economy hardly smacks of responsible economic management that would “keep interest rates at the lowest levels for 30 years”.
John Howard, driven by his own obsession with power, has done much to tear apart the fabric and principles of the Liberal Party, and poisoned the political careers of many Liberal Party MP’s and Senators.John