It’s the most closely guarded text in Australian political history, but publishing insider Walter Slurry has forwarded several extracts from the forthcoming Peter Costello memoir to Crikey. Today, part three: Election night 2007…

The published opinions polls and the media’s fawning over Rudd was sobering (Wilson Tuckey not withstanding), however no political party enters a campaign knowing they will lose.

Opinion polls can be misleading. The swing Labor required was historic and we firmly believed that the result would be both close and inconsistent across the states and territories. As it turned out, the only thing inconsistent was John Howard.

The Canberra press gallery continued to focus on Howard’s refusal to step down and allow me to lead the Liberals in the November poll.

Was I bitter? Certainly not. Was I angry? Not particularly, that’s life as I told Glenn Milne. Did I feel the opportunity to be Prime Minister had slipped by? Honestly, maybe a tad. Did I throw a temper tantrum and cry like a girl? Perhaps.

I spent the early part of Saturday 24 November at my electorate office in Higgins, mostly in the bathroom. As I told Glenn Milne later, the party had made a decision not to change leaders and the party’s view had to be respected.

The fact that the Liberal caucus was comprised of a relatively high number of half-wits, semi-literate spongers, intellectual dwarfs and failed council hacks did little to improve my spirits, although a fifth of vodka did.

Election night was calamitous. No one, not even Mark Textor and Lynton Crosby, predicted the enormity of our defeat, and they had polled an enormous number of Liberal Party members.

Minchin called me from the tally room in Canberra where he was struggling not to smack Julia Gillard in the chops. He informed me that our members and ministers were falling like ten-pin bowling balls. I asked him what “balls” were…

As I watched our ranks being decimated, one of my staff informed me there would be a phone hook up at 8.30pm.

As I watched my political career go down the proverbial toilet, I could no longer contain my frustration.

“Idiots! Fools! Ignoramuses! Egotistical self-interested sycophants! Doe-eyed sheep!,” is what I believed I called them at our election night teleconference.

I have subsequently reviewed Minchin’s notes and I believe I actually said: “Hey fellas, can I get a go in 2011? That’d be ripper?”

Turnbull accused me of not having the strength of character to actually challenge Howard. I used my Blackberry to Google “strength” and “character” before responding.

As Environment minister, Turnbull had been an abject failure. If Labor had run a better candidate than George Sh-thouse (editor: please check spelling of ALP Wentworth candidate’s name) he would have lost his seat.

Turnbull went further, saying I was an invertebrate, whatever that meant, and that he would be the one to pick up the pieces of what looked like a landslide to Rudd.

“Over my dead body Turnbull,” I yelled in a loud whisper as I looked up White Lady Funerals in the yellow pages…

Read The Costello Memoir Part 1: the last Howard Budget and The Costello Memoir Part 2: The “challenge” that never was on Crikey’s website.

Peter Fray

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