There is a school of thought at the moment that says, not to put too fine a point on it, that Cossie is stuffed.

It says that his acolytes — or, Mitch, anyway — completely ruined any hopes that Howard might stand down when they fumbled their hand, misplayed the leadership transition story and left Howard araldited to his seat.

With the polls pointing downwards, it continues, Costello can only look forward to leading the opposition, not the nation. And the proponents of this school of thought are very, very interested that, with the Budget less than four weeks away, the Treasurer is jaunting in a jumbo to London and Washington.

He’s missing this week’s COAG meeting, even though major economic matters, not to mention the Government’s $10 billion worth of water plans are on the table. The water fund might offer some clues. We know that Treasury was left out of the loop on that one.

Perhaps the Budget is being prepared entirely in the Prime Minister’s Office — maybe with a gnome from Zurich in attendance — and the Treasurer is stopping by the Bank of England and the IMF to drop off copies of his CV.