Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Titanic Party

Paul Keating beautifully referred to Peter Costello as "all tip and no iceberg", but the chances are he will end up being an iceberg for the Liberal Party. The word around the media today is that the Libs are all charging towards Costello's door, believing he will be the answer - it's a case of rearranging the deck chairs before hitting the iceberg.

I still remain to be convinced that Costello will take the leadership - it would run counter to everything he has done in the past - but regardless, I still remain convinced it will not deliver the Liberal Party a win at the next election.

The fact that the Liberal Party is so desperate that they are turning to Costello shows just how bad things are: Nelson is flatlining, and Turnbull is not presenting himself as a viable leader (at least not to the members of the hard right, who would prefer to stay in opposition than be led by Turnbull).

If Costello does take over, for a start he'll find out that being Leader of the Opposition is the worst job in politics, and he'll actually have to work (a change for a guy generally referred to by insiders as "lazy"). Secondly, he'll realise that being leader is a thousand miles away from the comfort of being second banana; and asking questions in Question Time is a lot harder than answering Dorothy Dixers with a compliant speaker.

The problem with going for Costello is it relies on the false premise that he can beat Rudd. This requires forgetting that Rudd has already beaten him. Last election the Libs went out of their way to tell the electorate you were getting 2 for the price of 1- Howard first then Costello a couple years later. The electorate took a look and said no thanks.

During the campaign (and most of last year) Costello was also unable to kill off Swan, and he is hardly likely to come across as a man of the people - treasurers only have to care about the economy, leaders of the opposition have to care about everything. Then there is the question of unity - you think Turnbull will sit happily as his treasury spokesperson? Turnbull isn't popular in the party, but neither is Costello - he is only being sought after now because the Libs have finally worked out how big a hole they are in - so he won't have a great deal of good will to rely on should thing go bad.

Whatever happens, if Costello takes over, the Libs will get a bump in the polls (they would have to!). But 2010 is a long way away, and the fact the libs are going for short-term fixes should provide great heart to the ALP.

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