Janet Albrechtsen is young, bright – and provides the perfect demonstration of exactly how John Howard has got himself into his poll pickle.

“Now he must go,” she says.

Why? Janet doesn’t really go there. She probably can’t. She’s part of the problem, too. But the answer is clear. John Howard is in the state he is in because he has favoured conservatism over liberalism. John Howard conservatism has pulled the Liberal Party down.

John – and Janet – have been off fighting the culture wars. Populist authoritarianism has been a powerful weapon for them. But populist authoritarianism denies liberalism.

John and Janet have ignored economic and personal freedom, and despite all their hectoring on social issues, have denied individuals responsibility over their own lives.

The nanny state has flourished like never before under John Howard. Howard has created a big taxing, big spending government that takes our money and spends it on the bleeding obvious – wasting millions, for example, to tell us the children need supervision on the internet.

His big taxing government has taken people’s money off them to use for social engineering and political pork barrelling. It worked a storm for a while, but as last week’s Galaxy Poll showed with its questions on taxation and the surplus, voters have realised that the money being stuck in their pockets was taken from those very same pockets in the first place.

Conservatives like Albrechtsen have turned a blind eye to Howard’s tax and bribe policies – and these are proving to be his undoing.

Economic management has been the Government’s strongest suit.

I said a few weeks ago that the Government can win if it gets its economic pitch right. It hasn’t. Galaxy appears to suggest the opposite is happening.

Tax and spend has corrupted their credentials. And it’s not going to get better.

In the Van Errington biography, John Howard’s loyal Treasurer dismisses the Prime Minister’s performance in the same job under Malcolm Fraser. He condemns Howard’s record from that time on inflation, interest rates and economic reform.

He suggests that Howard has repeatedly not told the truth about disagreements with Fraser over economic policy, to protect his own image.

Albrechtsen calls Costello “the last rabbit”. She seems to ignore the fact that he has political myxo.

He is weakened, too. Like John Howard before him, he has been too gutless to speak out against a powerful prime minister and his economic policies.

Populism and conservatism are killing the Howard Government. The job’s almost done.