9 Sep. 2007

Break Out The Popcorn, Kids

Howard always said he would only stay as long as the Party wanted him. Was that the ultimate Howard lie? Phillip Coorey sums up the fine mess Howard has got himself into:
The only certainty yesterday was that there would be no election called this week.

The Liberal Party hasn't got all the mechanisms in place. And there are a handful of seats in NSW which still have no Liberal candidates. Labor claims there are 15, the party says it is fewer than 10, and most are safe Labor seats known as "dead reds" - seats the Coalition cannot win.

Members of the Coalition more resembled chooks running around with their heads cut off over the weekend. It is a hell of a way to be on the cusp of what will be a frightfully difficult election.

With APEC over and Parliament resuming tomorrow for the last brief sitting, attention was focusing on Wednesday's party-room meeting and what Howard might say. Yet sources cautioned repeatedly yesterday not to be surprised if he leaves...

Should Howard go, the "deal" was for Peter Costello to become leader and Downer his deputy. Costello, we were being told, does not want the leadership now but would have to take it if offered...

One senior minister said that, from a personal standpoint, it would be better for Howard to leave now in a dignified fashion to spare himself defeat.

But, he said, from the party's perspective, Howard should stay because the Government could only do worse under Costello.

"It's a very big call with the time remaining that Peter Costello would, on balance, do a better job."

Costello is more unpopular than Howard in both public and private polling. He would need more than just a week or two to develop a popular image. Howard still has a healthy approval rating, even if he trails Rudd.

Malcolm Turnbull or anyone else at this stage would guarantee disaster.

Howard's only real option is to stay.
Dunno about that last conclusion, although Peter Hartcher and Michelle Grattan have the same line. All assume that Howard would put the party's interests ahead of his own ego, and that Costello is the only possible choice for replacement. But with new (probably bad) inflation figures due out Oct 24, and the stock market set for another huge crash, Costello might be better to go into hiding.

The Libs are in a total mess, which could take a decade or more to fix, and they have Howard to thank for it. More popcorn?