Thursday, July 19, 2007

Liberal quake 6.5 on the Richter scale

Polls are always problematic, more so when we rarely see the raw figures from Australian political polls. But there are other indicators I like to focus on. One is the actual state of the various parties contesting an election. When a party, particularly a governing party, starts to implode there is a fair chance they are in trouble.

I reflected recently on the conflicting comments from the Liberal leadership over Iraq. Serious as it was, it was an isolated dispute. Now Howard’s flagship newspaper, The Australian, owned by Rupert Murdoch has given its take on a more serious internal dispute.

“Liberal leadership wobbles started on Monday when Mr Howard asked his Cabinet colleagues if he was "the problem". He also sought criticism and suggestions of what he should do in the face of a series of opinion polls showing Labor in a position that he had previously said would lead to "annihilation" for the Coalition.” The Australian

That report conflicted with the rival Fairfax papers views. Far from being a new dispute the Melbourne Age says:

“Tensions between the Howard Government's two leading figures are to be exposed, with Peter Costello accusing John Howard of putting his own interests ahead of the Liberal Party's and suggesting that the Prime Minister's office leaked material aimed at damaging the Treasurer.

“In what amounts to an attack on Mr Howard's trustworthiness and truthfulness, Mr Costello also claims to be worried about the sustainability of the Government's spending programs, many of which were initiated by the Prime Minister.” The Age

Sister paper, The Sydney Morning Herald dropped an earlier story to run:

Costello quells Howard unrest

“Costello has moved swiftly this morning to try and contain any damage caused by his revelations in a new biography about the ongoing tensions between he and John Howard.”

It is a deep rift between the two top leaders of the party going back many years and underscored by rivalries between NSW and Victorian powerbases. It’s just difficult to see what Costello hopes to achieve by undermining his boss so close to an election.

Howard isn’t going anywhere before he has his chance to grandstand at September’s APEC conference. That would leave Costello an impossibly short window to make a successful transition before an election is due.

At best he can only hope to become the new opposition leader, a position which would leave him extremely vulnerable with a number of eager aspirants looking to grab the chance to lead the party back from a wilderness experience.

For all that, the signs of a party in turmoil are increasing. For once the polls might be right. Just a shame it is purely an either or scenario.


Praguetwin said...

Two-party politics are just painfully unsatisfying.

Witness the current Democratic Congress and their bafoonery. When they won, I was relieved. Not ecstatic.... relieved.

It is like tying or loosing every game.

Still, a tie beats a loss... I guess.

Cartledge said...

This is why I am behind support for alternatives, like independents. It is a long haul, but at least one underway here in Australia.

Kvatch said...

It’s just difficult to see what Costello hopes to achieve by undermining his boss so close to an election.

"When the body's in trouble, lop off the head"? But seriously, if the tension between them is longstanding, Howard isn't going to anoint Costello as a successor, anyway. And I assume that Howard still wields enough influence to choose who will follow him.

Cartledge said...

kvatch Howard's power does seem to be teetering. Costello's problem is that there are still a bunch of second rate contestants ready to knock him off too. Live by the sword...