John Howard has reversed his Prime Ministerial exit strategy. For seven years, the PM has stressed that his leadership of the Liberal Party would come to an end when his colleagues no longer supported him in the role.

Yesterday morning, his party comrades not only appear to have shown him the door, they pointed to a fluorescent exit sign to avoid confusion. It forced the PM to clarify his position, telling a press conference that he would decide when the party could decide it no longer wanted him as leader. “It is not in the party’s best interests to revisit it, that’s my position.”

How could we have got it so wrong?

3 June, 2003, TVNZ: “While ever it remains in the party’s best interests and my colleagues want me to, I’d be honoured to continue as leader.”

5 February, 2004, ABC: “Well, I will remain leader of the Liberal Party for so long as my colleagues want me to and it’s in the best interests of the party that I do.”

12 May, 2004, The Age: “I’ll remain leader of the Liberal Party for so long as the party wants me to remain in that position and it’s in the party’s best interest that I do.”

27 May, 2004, AP: “I’ll stay; I’ll stay as long as my Party wants me to …”

1 September, 2004, The Age: “I intend to serve as long as my party wants me.”

5 September, 2004, The Age: “I’ll remain the leader of the party for as long as my party wants me to.”

12 September, 2004, AAP: “I’ll continue there as long as the Australian people and my party want me to.”

1 May, 2005, The Age: “I’ll remain in the job … for so long as my party wants me to.”

2 May, 2005, ABC: “I’ll continue to occupy this position for so long as my party wants me to.”

2 April, 2006, AAP: “I’ll stay leader as long as my party wants me to …”

21 April, 2006, The Age: “I’ll stay in this job as long as my party wants me to and it’s in the best interests that I do.”

3 June, 2006, The Australian: “I’ll stay in this position for so long as the party wants me to …”

12 June, 2006, Sunday Telegraph: “I’ll stay as long as my party wants me to.”

31 July, 2006, The Age: “I’m not giving any undertakings beyond what I have previously said and that is that I’ll continue to serve as leader of the Liberal Party for so long as my party wants me to and it’s in the party’s best interests that I do so.”

1 August, 2006, Border Mail: “I’ll continue to serve as leader of the Liberal Party for so long as my party wants me to and it’s in the party’s best interests that I do so.”

23 October, 2006, Cairns Post: “I’ll remain leader of the Liberal Party for so long as my Party wants me to and it’s in the party’s best interests.”

21 August, 2007, ABC: “Now I’ve said before, I will stay as leader of my party for as long as my party wants me to and it’s in the party’s best interests that I do so.”

August 30, 2007, The Australian: “I’ll stay in my position as long as my party wants me to and it’s in the party’s best interest that I do so.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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