Crikey’s political spindoctoring expert Wendy Wedge reckons John Howard’s third term could get very difficult.

He may just retire into the job like Hawkie did with being PM being more important that actually doing anything. In this case a rerun of Hawke-Keating in the form of Costello-Howard is a certainty.

More probably we will see an unholy settling of scores with anyone against he and Janette have ever had a grudge against. This will be messy, nasty and very ugly. This pair, are, after all sui generis when it comes to hating.

Wendy has her views on who might be on the list but we thought it might be more fun if we ran an email write-in vote on who crikey subscribers think will be the top ten on the list. So get your thinking caps on: who little Johnnie and Janette will go after post November 10?

Meanwhile, of course, the chattering classes are getting bothered by the fact that Howard’s wedge politics are succeeding so brilliantly with the great unwashed.

In the past week Hugh Mackay in The Age, the Australian’s Dennis Shanahan, and others have all started to ask questions about whether the PM actually has any policies and any vision for the future.

Mackay answered his own question by arguing that the only vision Howard has of the future is one in which Howard is PM – full stop.

Shanahan made it clear that Howard was about to get in by default and that this probably wasn’t a great thing. Sounds remarkably like something Rupert was reported to have said to his editors on his recent visit doesn’t it? Most politicians would think it was magnificent no hostages to fortune, no core and non-core promises, just good old-fashioned power.

But the comments do raise that interesting word “legitimacy”.

Now, anyone can argue that election victory legitimises everything in a democracy. Malcolm Fraser thought that in 1975 and then discovered that the chattering classes between elections can make life difficult.

Howard might just be headed for a re-run with a significant number of the metropolitan, liberal elites convinced that he “stole” the election by underhand, deceitful, divisive, wedge politics.

Wendy here thinks that merely demonstrates the Prime Miniature’s true political greatness putting him up there with the immortal Dick Nixon.

But it’s just possible that others might not agree. Now it won’t matter if things go well. But there are some great what if’s.

First, there is the little problem of refugees, Pacific islands and mounting millions in budget outlays. The current solution will hold until November 10 but after then the fun and games will be on.

Then there is the economy. If that starts to go down the toilet it won’t be the terrorists and Bin Laden who get the blame.

Then there is the Budget and the deficit which might look a lot worse if things get worse. Unlike every other recent Government he won’t be able to blame his predecessor for the black hole. Admittedly, he probably is capable of blaming Costello and scooting off free. This is a tactic he’s tried before when he claimed that he would have been a great reformer post-1975 but that Malcolm stopped him.

The republic might come back on the agenda.

And with Reith, Fahey and Wooldridge gone the new Cabinet might look a bit ordinary.

If any, or all of the above, comes to pass, the chorus of the disenchanted will make Wagner sound like Gershwin.

The question will then be one about legitimacy, or, in technical terms: they will be coming out of the woodwork to get the chance to put the boot in just as they did with Victoria’s own Jeffrey.

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