Sunday, August 03, 2008

Costello Still Deciding on Leadership

As the Liberal Party languishes in the whiteout that is the Winter Recess for Federal Oppositions, Brendan Nelson leaves for a 10-day holiday, just as Peter Costello returns from his holiday in warmer climes. Could Nelson's holiday be the political equivalent of Capt Oates' "I’m just stepping outside for a while and I may be some time..." suicide walk in the Antarctic?

Several senior Liberal Party members have voiced their support for ex-Treasurer Peter Costello just 1 day after Nelson's departure for his holiday. Among them are "Mad Monk" Tony Abbott, MP; and Senator Nick "Captain Crankypants" Minchin.

For his part Peter Costello is biding his time: will he retire from politics, or take up the challenge of Opposition leadership after 12 years as Treasurer? His book launch has been brought forward to September. There are some possible political reasons for doing so:
  • Costello wants the leadership, but on his terms. To be introduced at his book launch as now "Opposition Leader", sounds MUCH BETTER than just "soon-to-retire-not-involved-backbencher".
  • Costello could be waiting to be "invited" to take the leadership, without challenge from Malcolm Turnbull, or the incumbent Brendan Nelson. Such a bloodless coup reduces the public gnashing, although Turnbull would still be seething and plotting, rather like Brutus did for Caesar.
  • If he is not offered the leadership on a plate, it is unlikely that Peter Costello would challenge for it: he had ample opportunity to challenge for Leadership when the Coalition was in government under John Howard, and Howard had "promised" him the leadership. After the Coalition lost government in Nov 2007, Costello wanted nothing to do with leadership of the Opposition. He might still regard it as a poisoned chalice.
Will he? Won't he? Only Costello knows at this stage, but media straw polling shows more voter support for Costello than the hapless Nelson, or the golden pony Turnbull. He can certainly be more competent in Parliament, if he so chooses. WorkChoices, his inflationary budgets, and the last 10 movements in interest rates being up are his biggest pieces of baggage.

We won't know Costello's intentions until he chooses to tell us, perhaps by "rumours" leaked by supporters to the media, followed by a quick, clean kill. The smiling snake might yet be back.