All Hail Malcolm the Second

“If we are fortunate, Malcolm Turnbull will be the next Liberal Prime Minister of Australia,” says Mercurius Goldstein at Online Opinion. I mentioned once that Turnbull would be the Liberals’ best leadership choice. Goldstein explains just why that’s the case — and along the way presents a magnificent essay on the nature of compromise in politics. Some of those whingeing about Peter Garrett this week should read and consider every word. Thanks to Larvartus Prodeo for the pointer.

The Leadership (Non)-Challenge

When I returned to focus on politics after a busy morning yesterday, I discovered that not only was John Howard still PM, but also that there was never a leadership challenge. Really. How can this be?

I happened to read Crikey first, where Christian Kerr wrote:

Nothing happened in Canberra this morning. Nothing in a Samuel Beckett sort of way. A nothing that means plenty. A nothing that is quite profound.

You’ve right there, Christian! Every newsroom and every politics junkie in the country including myself arced up — prepared, as I said, for the biggest political story in a decade. And then come the time, Howard et al strolled out of the party room meeting as if nothing had happened.

Finally, at 12:45, Tony Abbott appeared. There had been “full and frank discussions”, he said, but there was “absolutely rock solid support for the Prime Minister”.

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Game on!

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull

So, will Malcolm Turnbull (left) be Prime Minister by tomorrow? Sky News has just reported that foreign minister Alexander Downer and environment minister Malcolm Turnbull no longer believe Prime Minister John Howard should lead the Liberals.

Sky News says both of them have spoken to John Howard about the leadership. I’m listening to ABC News Radio just now, though, and they say Howard’s denying the conversations took place.

Someone here is lying: Turnbull and Downer, Sky News, or John Howard. Now which of those has the best track rcord for being truthful, eh?

It certainly appears like it’s game on for a leadership challenge. If so, coming just a few weeks before a federal election makes this the biggest political event of more than a decade. Every newsroom in the nation has just gone to red alert. Fun fun fun.

Watching the government implode

Photograph of John Howard and Janelle Howard at the Commonwealth Games in 2006

How can I be expected to do any “constructive” work today when there’s such wonderful entertainment on offer: the Howard government imploding so, so fast.

Spend some time looking at this photo of John and Hyacinth (left) in happier times, the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, because there may not be any more happy times for these two.

(Even in this photo, though, it looks like our Prime Minister would rather be somewhere else — though Hyacinth seems to be, well, excited.)

Even in the few hours since I suggested Malcolm Turnbull would be the Coalition’s best choice to fight a rearguard action, and about Howard’s submissive body language, there’s been two fascinating developments.

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Who’ll be PM on Wednesday?

Cover of John Winston Howard: The Biography

It’s a good thing John Howard’s very bestest of best friends George W Bush left APEC a day early. Howard could avoid talking about yet another fall in the opinion polls.

On the cover of the recent Howard biography (left), the Man of Steel looks stern and concerned. Apt. If those poll figures are repeated on election day, even with the usual minor swing back to stability, it won’t just be a Labor victory. It’ll be a complete rout of the Liberal/National Coalition.

APEC won’t be the poll boost Howard was looking for. John’s Bestest Best Friend stumbled through his speech like a village idiot — you choose good friends, John! Kevin Rudd looked like a 21st century statesman, cracking jokes in Mandarin with the Chinese president.

Pretty much everybody is saying it’s time for Howard to go — as Annabel Crabb’s witty poem makes clear. But the Man of Steel is in his bunker, fighting to the end.

I do intend to contest [the election], I intend to contest it as leader. That question was settled last year.

In the SMH today, Peter Hartcher says the Coalition would be mad to switch leaders now. I disagree.

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A Night of Politics: grubby, grubby…

The entire evening was filled with politics yesterday and the chafing this morning is quite painful and I learned a lot.

Christian Kerr, the national affairs editor for Crikey, was promoting his book “in conversation with” Antony Green, the thinking woman’s crumpet — a combination too good to miss! We went for dinner afterwards.

I didn’t realise I’ve actually met Christian before, until he saw me. “I know you,” he said. “You were the first person to play me I Like It Both Ways with Shaun Micaleff at 5UV.” I have no recollection of this event, Your Honour. However Christian recalled sufficient details for me to be convinced the event probably did happen. Somewhere. He knew certain obscure hand gestures. Stop asking questions.

In a preview of the federal election and subsequent conversation I learned:

  • Christian thinks that the election won’t be fought over industrial relations, as many pundits are saying, but over the economy. It’ll be about the Howard government’s “sound economic management” (as they describe it) versus the It’s Time factor.
  • Unless something changes, it will be a Labor victory. For all the talk of “the polls are all over the place,” Antony Green says this is the most consistent series of polls he’s ever seen.
  • There is a Big Yabby in Alexander Downer‘s electorate, at Goolwa, which is symbolic somehow.
  • Malcolm Turnbull could still win the federal seat of Wentworth thanks to his Fabulousness Factor.
  • No-one seems to understand why John Howard won’t support gay-related issues. And I’ve just finished reading his biography — nothing there gives a clue either.
  • Mattresses.
  • Iguanadons.

Now where’s that moisturiser…?