Here are two facts most journalists would be astonished to discover. Labor has led every Newspoll since August and the Government has led only once since June last year.

Look at Labor’s two-party-preferred vote in Newspoll so far this year: 56, 54, 57, 61, 57, 59, 57, 59, 57, 55, 60, and 56. And in ACNielsen: 58, 61, 58, 58, and 57.

A few more of these in the parliamentary recess and a challenge might be on – if Costello has the b-lls. He has little to lose – except perhaps at least a three-year stint in opposition. If he took over now, he would be PM pro tem, with the chance to win and become PM in his own right.

If Costello became PM now and lost, but the election result ends up closer than the current polls, then he could take credit for a turnaround. If it is the same or worse, then Howard still takes the blame.

Who will be PM in 2010? If Rudd wins, it’s most unlikely he’ll be challenged in his first term. If Howard stays and wins, he might stay healthy and retain the will to continue “so long as his party wants him to”, but his position will be untenable even as “Howard the Invincible”.

Still, unless he strikes now, it’s hard to see Costello becoming PM. Howard will make sure of that, as will the other challengers.

But Costello seems too soft and lazy. Too soft and lazy to challenge and too soft and lazy to be an opposition leader. Yes, he was sharp and aggressive in Parliament yesterday, weighing into Kevin Rudd over his productivity problems.

But that’s shooting fish in a barrel. The Treasurer fails the ticker test.