It’s Politics 101. Practical Politics. The PM hasn’t taken the hints from last week. So some senior Liberal figures have gone and talked to journalists to ratchet up the pressure.
Sky News reported at 9:30 this morning that Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull want John Howard to go. Downer and Turnbull have denied the report.
There’s a further practical politics element to this. Crikey understands it’s true the two haven’t told the PM to go. Instead, they’ve told him to consider his position. Crikey has been told that the movers are “trying to make this a non-threatening coup”.
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Last night, the Prime Minister said “I’ll stay as long as my party wants me to”. Crikey understands he has been told that it is in his party’s interests to go.
The Prime Minister disagrees. At a joint press conference with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he said the leadership “was resolved last year”.
“It is not in the party’s best interests to revisit it, that’s my position. I believe that the next election will be difficult for the coalition, but we can win it and I hope people understand from observing me in 30-odd years of public life that I have never run from a fight before and I don’t intend to do so now,” he added before turning on his heel.
The party room is due to meet tomorrow morning, although there has been speculation of a meeting this evening after Harper departs.
And there’s more practical politics here. The leadership issue cannot be allowed to fester. If Peter Costello or anyone else wants to lead the Liberal Party, they need to take a lead. They need to act. Now.
We haven’t heard a peep from Peter Costello. Practical politics demands he either challenges or issues a very public and absolutely unequivocal statement of support for the PM.
That, to use today’s key phrase, is in the best interests of the Liberal Party.