“The Royal Australian Navy is paying for women sailors to have breast enlargements for purely cosmetic reasons,” the Sunday Telegraph breathlessly told us yesterday.

The Government’s own attempts at cosmetic enhancement are proving just as controversial. Rather than resolving matters, the Prime Minister’s announcement about his future – and his successor – have only required further clarification.

And that’s only talking about public clarification. Behind the scenes, nervous Liberal MPs – cabinet ministers and backbenchers alike – are both seething and nervous.

Howard’s stock answer on leadership has always included a reference to the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party and its wishes. It got trotted out again last week. Yet the Prime Minister has paid little attention to the wishes of his party. We are expected to believe the curious notion that the result of last week’s introspection is certainty and a smooth succession.

That means we are also being asked to believe that the Liberal Party now has a monarchical line of ascent and the Liberal MPs elected to serve in this coming poll have agreed to give up their right to a democratic vote to choose their who will lead them. And the candidates? And the broader party membership.

Have the putative Liberal leaders really agreed not to contest a position that might become vacant in just a few weeks time if Howard loses Bennelong or Labor wins the election – or two years down the track if he is returned?

Have Malcolm Turnbull, Brendan Nelson, Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, even Mal Brough and Joe Hockey, really put their ambitions aside?

The Government seems very rattled by the prospect of tomorrow’s Newspoll – even though it’s just another poll.

Perhaps all these talented team members should sign a public pledge today that they will not contest a leadership ballot until the one after Peter Costello takes over.

Ridiculous? Of course. And so is the bind the government has got itself into.