The Bulletin rings in the glad tidings today. Some 53% of voters think the PM should have retired, according to an IPSOS poll.

But there’s even better news. The same poll finds that only 17% of respondents thought Costello would make a better PM than Howard. Almost half thought Kevin Rudd would be a better prime minister than the incumbent, with 22% undecided.

Elsewhere in the Bully Laurie Oakes writes:

John Howard is using his Treasurer as a kind of political crutch. Kevin Rudd has no credible back-up, the Prime Minister claims, but ‘if I go under a bus, the Liberal Party has got Peter Costello’. He adds: ‘Peter Costello has been really the architect of our economic achievements over the last 11 years. He is widely admired for his economic management’.

And that’s where the fun really begins. Costello is admired for his economic management — but poll after poll shows the punters are not that keen on him for PM.

The Government could be bowling up to the polls with a unique pledge of its own — two duds for the price of one.

In yesterday’s Government party room brief, the press gallery was amused how Cossie told the troops that Kevin Rudd was the most focus-group and advertising-driven politician he had seen. The room erupted into laughter. One rascally reptile even asked, “Did he say that with a straight face?”

The PM told Sky News this morning that he’s not going anywhere. Wilson Tuckey, however, in a reference to the 11th-hour dumping of Bill Hayden in favour of Bob Hawke, said this morning: “Some people say you can’t do things late; well, Labor couldn’t have done it any later than they did with Bob Hawke.” 

Some in Camp Costello are looking enviously at Gordon Brown as he packs up at Number 11 Downing Street and prepares to move next-door.

Howard/Rudd/Costello and Blair/Cameron/Brown poll comparisons are tempting. So is linking Rudd and the Tory leader. Both are former political staffers with relative short parliamentary careers. Tempting — but entirely superficial. Rudd has much more substance than Cameron — and Gordon Brown doesn’t need to go to the people until 2010.

Unless the polls turn around, unless something goes very wrong for Kevin Rudd, or unless John Howard’s legendary luck hasn’t deserted him, the Government is heading to an election with an unappealing package — a PM past his use-by-date and an heir-apparent they only see as a Number Two.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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