Funny how these things hunt in packs.

There was a little flurry of talk late last week about how Peter Costello might be hitching up for the long Parliamentary haul, not so much because the stirring clarion call of Australian Liberalism still girded his loins, more because the whole working-in-the-private-sector thing had not really, ar, struck gold.

It seems the World Bank has decided it can get along without him, MacBank has no vacancies and Babcock & Brown can’t afford him. Maybe settling in and waiting to be begged to assume the leadership is the best future employment option after all.

Costello remains a man of mystery in the federal parliament. No-one knows really what his intentions are; he may not even be that clear himself. Having effectively given notice on election day last year, he responded to the vicious internal jockeying over the very prospect of a Higgins preselection by stating publicly that there was “no vacancy”.

And then there’s today’s polling in the Fairfax papers. Costello, the majority of respondents assure us, would be their preference as leader of the opposition, or at least would be an improvement on Bernard Nelson, or whatever his name is. Nothing will come of that, least of all any sign of animated ambition from the former treasurer. It’s all just smoke and fog. Costello we can assume will keep his head down and beetle between the chamber and his office giving nothing away, working hard on the memoirs, a tome already worth $200,000 to the author and one now being schlepped eagerly in a tough bidding war over lifting rights for the spring. 

Those rights deals can be complex things. Here’s a conspiracy theory for you, right off the grassy knoll: what if a rights deal has been done, or is close? What if Fairfax is playing hardball to clinch the pages and the accompanying aperitif of interesting revelations in the supporting interviews. What if building their man’s profile ahead of publication is all part of the negotiation? Could quality newspapers be that cynical?