If, as the polls tell us, November 24 is a foregone conclusion, can we then look forward to the morning after?

Unless it goes to the wire in the west, Howard will have conceded victory the night before, but the words we will most await will be those of Peter Costello – the man denied.

Surely, his line will be that if Howard had handed over to him two years earlier, the Coalition would still be in government. It was all Howard’s fault.

Costello’s supporters – especially those hoping to be elevated under his leadership – will mutter about selfish old men putting ambition before party.

The Howard camp will respond by saying (1) Costello weakened Howard by undermining him (2) he was as much to blame as Howard for the policies rejected by the electorate (3) if he had been leader the loss would have been even greater as he is unelectable, and (4) they will do all they can to block any bid by him for the leadership.

It will also be pointed out that the campaign was a double act, and Costello is as culpable as Howard in the loss. Indeed, it will be said that Costello’s presence dragged Howard down.

Tony Abbott will find a way to blame the states, somehow bagging both the Labor governments for their propaganda and the state Liberal parties for not doing enough.

Those on the far right will say Howard was not conservative enough; the dries will say Howard was too wet; and business will moan about the Coalition being insensitive to their needs.

Malcolm Turnbull will lay the blame at Howard’s feet for his refusal to sign Kyoto, and probably add a gratuitous spray about Howard’s leadership.

Alexander Downer will stamp his feet and predict rifts with our immediate neighbours under Labor, and opinionated academics will predict the end of the Liberal Party as we know it.

Our hearts will, of course, collectively bleed.

Costello and Downer most likely will flee, along with others, and saddle the taxpayers with a series of by-elections that rightly should be paid for out of the departees’ super payouts, simply because the AWA with the electorate has been broken.

Then will ensue the lively contest for the poison chalice of Opposition Leader, the party knowing full well that no first-term Opposition leader has yet become Prime Minister.

The fun really will start on 25 November if there is a change of government.

Squirm, baby, squirm!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey