So we had a lot of fun yesterday — but do the Howard and Costello revelations have any real impact?
Not in one way. No one votes Liberal because the PM and his Treasurer get along. But they still need to manage their relationship. If they can’t, then they both look weak. The government looks weak.
Howard was a poor treasurer. He couldn’t stand up for himself. That’s how Peter Costello looks, given his complaints about John Howard’s spending.
But there’s now a risk that Howard will look like a weak PM. Kerry O’Brien missed the killer question last night: “Prime Minister, how can you continue to have this man in your Cabinet when he has shown you such disloyalty?”
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Howard and Costello have managed to accommodate each other. This tolerance now looks like weakness. It suggests that neither man is really happy with the other in the job they hold.
Costello cannot convincingly campaign for the re-election of a Howard government, given that Howard may want to go on and on and on. Howard cannot fully support his Treasurer.
Unity has provided the foundations for the success of the Howard government. That unity has now been proven to be a chimera.
The foundations of the government’s power — and the personal power of its two leading figures — have been rocked. That not only has implications for the future of the Howard government. It has implications for the succession.
A lame duck leader looks lamer — but the man who seeks to supplant him seems to lack the killer instinct politics demands.
If Howard and Costello can’t manage their relationship, voters may decide to do it for them. They’ll opt for a change of a different kind — to Labor.