I was discussing Costello’s prospects of making it into the Lodge last night, and it struck me that they were not very good. The only way Howard is going to falter badly enough to be sackable is if the economy goes sour, but then Costello will share the blame.
The optimal strategy, and also the standard one, does not seem to have been discussed as an option (feel free to correct me). If he wants the top job, Costello should resign from Cabinet, head for the backbench, and deliver a dignified speech about Howard’s shortcomings. In this scenario, a downturn in the economy hits the trifecta for Costello: his reputation as a masterful economic manager would be enhanced, whichever of his rivals took on the Treasury portfolio would be discredited and Howard would get the blame for alienating the only man who could run the economy properly.
If you look at Australia’s political history over the past 25 years, this approach has been pursued with success quite a few times: Peacock, Keating, Latham and Beazley all retired to the backbench to await the call, and none did so in vain, though only Keating (so far) has gone all the way to the Lodge.
fn1. I don’t think the correlation between economic performance and the competence of the Treasurer is all that great, but my opinions on this matter aren’t really relevant.