Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Liberal Party and Costello: Bound in shallows and in miseries

With the news that Malcolm Turnbull had offered Peter Costello the Shadow Treasurer's job on Sunday (ie before Julie Bishop had stepped down), has seen poor Joe Hockey's first couple of days in the job completely overshadowed by (to quote Chris Pyne) "the internal machinations and private conversations" of the Liberal Party.

Today the media was in a bit of a lather about the future of Peter Costello. Pretty much it was whatever you read last year on the subject rolled out again.

Andrew Bolt thinks it's all part of a master plan:

WHAT a debacle. The only good news for the Liberals after losing Julie Bishop is that Peter Costello is doing nothing.

Not leaving Parliament. Not replacing poor Bishop as Treasury spokesman.

That way, you see, he'll be fresh and spotless, just when the Liberals most need a new leader. And just when Labor will be looking as reckless and clueless as few voters yet understand.

I give him another year.

What a complete crock! Can you imagine that anyone will see Peter Costello as "fresh and spotless"? Err yeah, if they hadn't been alive for the last 12 years, but I don't think that includes many voters.

And not only that Bolt thinks Costello should wait another year yet! Why?

Costello knows the Canberra media inevitably turns on a Liberal leader, as even former media darling Turnbull is now finding. Best save the honeymoon effect for closer to an election.

That nasty left wing media... hang on, aren't you part of the media Andrew? And I guess it's only the Liberal leaders who have a rough time, becasue of course the media never reported anything about Rudd going to a strip club, or a lunch with Brian Burke or etc etc. But wait there's more:

Second, an Opposition leader always looks best to the public just after taking over. Again, save that honeymoon.

Good advice Andrew, best for Costello to takeover and hope the election gets called before everyone works out how useless he is.

And then there's this:

Third, Costello needs the party to be so desperate it unites in wanting him.

Yes, you read that right; Andrew Bolt thinks the best thing for the Liberal Party is for it to get to such a terrible and unelectable state that it turns to Costello close to an election to turn things around! I guess after the election he'll be turning water in to wine as a encore.

What madness. The Liberal Party at the moment is 16 points behind the ALP in the polls. They have not won any poll since 2006, and yet Bolt thinks that will all be turned around in 6 months because after becoming a complete basket case of a party, they elect as leader Peter Costello?

Balderdash, the tide in the affairs of Peter Costello was at the flood in mid 2006, both he and the Liberal Party ommitted it.

But just to prove Andrew Bolt isn't the only one drinking the Costello flavoured kool-aid, here's Terry McCrann:

There is no question that Costello is the most effective performer in the parliament. And that further, to borrow a quote from former prime minister John Howard, the 'times will suit him'
Suit him? That's an understatement - they seem to have been made for him.

Odd, that's what they were saying about Malcolm Turnbull just a few months ago. And yes he was effective in parliament with a compliant speaker and loads of Dorothy Dixers.

Here are some more McCrann assertions (note the lack of any evidence):

While Costello might have been deeply unpopular in November 2007, it would arguably be very different today, in mid-2009.

The really critical question is what it will be in late-2010. If PM Rudd goes to the election with deficits AND economic gloom, he will be toast.

With little doubt, if he then faced an opposition leader called Peter not Malcolm.

You heard it here first - Rudd is toast, because of course he'll go to the election with deficits (the horror!!!!!!) and economic gloom? And once again there's no way Rudd could beat Costello... apart from the fact he has in any poll ever asked on the subject. And of course the Liberal Party should go for Costello as leader becasue he "arguably" would be more popular than he was in 2006? Madness, I says.

But look what both of these (and any other Costello fans) forget is Turnbull. Just how do they think Costello is going to get the leadership? Do they think this is going to be the scenario:

  • In early-mid 2010 with the LNP bumping along at about 40% in the polls, and Turnbull on about 20% in the preferred PM stakes, he decides he obviously isn't PM material. He goes to his hated enemy and says, "Peter, I can't do it. I'm not up to the job, you do it, you're much better than me". He then holds a press conference where he says he does not wish for any more of the instability that has been caused by Costello to go on, and thus he is standing down as leader and wants the entire party to get behind Peter. As a result the LNP is back to 48-50% and catches Rudd wondering, "How do I attack Peter Costello, he is so fresh and spotless?"

Notice anything fanciful in that? OK try this one:

  • In early-mid 2010 with the LNP bumping along at about 40% in the polls, and Turnbull on about 20% in the preferred PM stakes, Peter Costello does what he has never done before, even against the hapless Brendan Nelson at a time when the party would have fallen over themselves to elect him, and knocks on Turnbull's door and announces he is challenging him for the leadership. He wins the spill motion and then...

Ah what happens next... do you think:

  1. Turnbull admits defeat and resigns himself to never being PM, and is a loyal shadow treasurer.
  2. Turnbull and all of his supporters vow they would rather die than see Costello succeed.

You see politics between these two is nasty. Without sugar coating things, we can say they hate each other. The only reason I could be persuaded that Costello is waiting (to use Bolt's phrase) until the party is so desperate it unites in wanting him, is that such a scenario would mean Turnbull has failed.

Gore Vidal once wrote that people in Hollywood thought "it is not enough to succeed; others must fail"; the same could be said of Costello viz-a-viz Turnbull. Had Costello taken the leadership after Nelson, Turnbull would not have failed; however, if he takes over from Turnbull then Costello would have succeeded and Turnbull would have failed. What joy for all in the Liberal Party.

And again this brings us back to the whole faulty scenario - if things have gotten that bad, it means the entire Liberal Party has become a joke; and no one can take a party from joke to victory in 6 months. When Rudd took over, the ALP was already leading - it was just Beazley who was behind. Ditto Hawke over Hayden.

If the ALP is killing the LNP in the polls, then all the lipstick in the world ain't going to hide the fact that the LNP pig is still a pig.

And if Costello wins, what happens to Turnbull - shadow treasurer? Does anyone think that will work? Does anyone think the ALP won't be able to find some cracks in that partnership to exploit? And what happens to Joe Hockey? You think he wants to go backwards? And Andrew Robb would expect some reward, so would Tony Abbott etc etc...

When Rudd took over from Beazley, the Bomber declared that was it and everyone knew it was thus. Downer resigned to let Howard take over, and no one thought of him as leadership material again, if only because he was a Howard man through and through. When Keating beat Hawke, Hawke left parliament.

Nothing like that is going to happen this time round for the Liberals.

If Costello wants the leadership he's either going to have to challenge, which will mean a divided party, or the party is such an absolute mess they elect him leader out of pure desperation.

Yep - divided or desperate. Somehow I don't think that's what most parties aim for as an image in an election year.

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