5 Jun. 2007

What Happens To The Liberals After The Rudd Landslide?

Ever noticed how many modern political parties tend to hold a vice-like grip on power for a decade or more before they are forcibly removed? Notice how often they are consigned to oblivion after a landslide defeat? I'm thinking of Thatcher's Britain, Reagan's USA or the Hawke/Keating years in Oz. But you could throw in Fraser's Liberals, Clinton's Democrats and maybe (soon) Blair's UK Labour Party.

Could that be due to the fact that modern political leaders work hard to destroy dissent within their own ranks? Could it be related to the allegedly cash-strapped media's habit of falling in line with whoever holds power?

I have been waiting (in vain) for someone within the Howard Liberal Party to mount a leadership challenge. And I have slowly been realising that the reason it hasn't happened - nor even been seriously discussed - is that nobody in the Conga Line is qualified to take over. Nobody else in Howard's cabinet could possibly defeat Rudd. They all suck.

Until just now, I hadn't considered the full implications of that. But this Crikey story got me thinking. The lack of leadership capacity in the Liberal Party could actually leave them decimated for a decade to come.

Let's assume Rudd wins victory. Howard is gone in a blink. But who takes over? It's the same Conga Line queued up for a stint in opposition. Methinks Downer would call it a day and move to a comfy board role somewhere. Turnbull would probably be two steps ahead of him. Brendan Nelson's mum might fancy his chances, but nobody else would put money on him. Ruddock might get a job at Movie World doing Montgomery Burns impressions.

Abbott would flex his muscles, of course, but would anyone take notice? Costello might be so deluded that he demands a turn at the head of the class, if only for the fin de siecle sentiment of it. But that would surely be a gift to Rudd, and it would only be prolonging the inevitable: another Liberal leadership challenge further down the line. As the polls have repeatedly shown, Australians don't actually like him.

A decade in the wilderness? If I were a Liberal Party member (shudder) I might be starting to get seriously worried right about now.

UPDATE: Right on cue:
Peter Costello has moved to quash speculation that he wants John Howard to step aside before the next election.

Mr Costello on Wednesday reiterated that he planned to go to the next election as treasurer, as commentators continued to muse that Mr Howard may yet get a tap on the shoulder to step aside.

Leadership speculation dogged the Liberal's federal conference over the weekend but the issue appeared to be put to bed after a surge in support for the coalition in the Galaxy poll released on Monday and private Labor polling suggesting Mr Costello was on the nose with voters.
Rightwing psycho Andrew Bolt is saying Howard should hand over to Costello if polls dont improve enen more in the next six weeks. But how many Galaxy polls will Rupert be prepared to commission?