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Peter Costello

Article from: Andrew Bolt of Herald Sun on July 01, 2009

PETER Costello was in Jerusalem last week, just a few metres from where Christ rose from the dead, when he heard a voice.

“Mate,” it said.

“Mate, ya gotta take over the leadership.”

It was just another tourist who’d recognised the former treasurer as the Messiah, despite his cunning disguise of T-shirt and daggy shorts.

But what he told Costello close by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was no more than what far better connected Liberals were telling him, too, in calls, emails and text messages to their last hope, over in Israel. Never have I seen a BlackBerry wink so furiously.

The despair of the Liberals is now almost complete.

Not two years after their election defeat, they’ve junked one leader, nice Brendan Nelson, and have seen the second all but destroy himself.

Malcolm Turnbull is now as close to finished as Opposition Leader as he can be without actually getting the boot.

Three different newspaper polls this week agreed the Liberals were heading to an electoral shellacking under him, and that his own credibility had taken a huge hit after he relied upon a fake email to accuse Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of using his office to look after a mate, neighbour and car dealer who’d given him cash and a car.

And the worst of it all was that Turnbull used this email – purportedly sent by one of Rudd’s staff – to mount a suicidal attack over an issue that the public tells pollsters is too boring to even follow, anyway.

All was risked for nothing.

Turnbull may yet recover, of course, not just because much of Rudd’s power rests on a brittle platform of stunts, but because nothing is ever final in politics until you’re dragged out by your heels.

Just ask John Howard, the “Lazarus with a triple bypass” who was finished twice over . . . until he became our second-longest serving prime minister.

But that truth also brings me irresistibly to Costello, who this week’s Nielsen poll says now outpolls Turnbull as preferred leader by two to one.

No, nothing is final even with him until he’s actually out of parliament he’s sworn he’s leaving. And that’s why some Liberals (but not yet enough) are begging Costello to stage a resurrection – if not like Christ’s, then at least like Colin Barnett’s.

Barnett, you may remember, is the Liberal who last year said he’d had enough of politics, too, after losing his battle for the leadership of the West Australian Liberals, then in opposition.

He was quitting, and the Liberals even selected a new candidate for his seat.

But just a month or two from the election, the party’s new leader was caught sniffing a woman’s chair, and the Liberals in despair implored Barnett – the only credible alternative left – to stay on and take over.

Reluctantly, he agreed – and is now premier of his state.

This, with Costello in the title role, is the scenario many Liberals cling to as their best hope to avoid devastation at the next election, which – if not called early – will be held a year from now.

After all, faith in Turnbull is sinking fast. He may be bright and ferociously ambitious, but his political judgment has been deeply flawed.

He’s been too quick to attack without checking the ground. He’s put the wrong people in some of the best jobs.

He tries too hard to please people who’d never be his friend – especially journalists – and has chased Leftist policies, especially on global warming, that anger the staunchest of Liberals, including his own MPs.

And he still buries his best messages in far too many words.

BUT if not Turnbull, then who? Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey is too untested and too jovial.

The talented and thoughtful Tony Abbott is unfortunately seen as too Christian and crash-through. Andrew Robb is . . . um, well, do you know who Robb is?

In fact, the Liberals face the absurd dilemma of having only two potential leaders with half a chance – one who’s been thrown out of parliament and the other who says he’s skedaddling, too.

The first is John Howard, of course, who lost not only the last election but his seat, yet remains an adult in a time when parliament seems stuffed with children.

Howard, incidentally, is no older than was Winston Churchill half way through his own first time as prime minister.

The other is Costello, who seems perfectly content with his decision to retire, yet strangely receptive to pleas to reconsider.

No doubt the man is simply flattered to be wanted, yet should one day the party, united – and very close to an election – beg on its bended knees for him to lead . . .

I know, I know. Pure fantasy, but even now Costello refuses to point blank tell me so.

What’s more, I spent the past week at a leadership dialogue in Israel with both Costello and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Rudd’s obvious successor, and know which of the two most seemed foreman material.

I admire Gillard, it’s true, despite her spending so many billions on so little for our schools, and her ambition for the top job seems twice Costello’s.

But it was repeatedly clear that she is all caution and process, while Costello is more confident and daring. More visionary, dare I say.

I am bound to keep confidential what I observed at the dialogue itself, but the speeches of the two rivals at the opening night dinner at the King David Hotel tell the tale.

Gillard read from a prepared speech about her support for Israel – just one more part of the rebadging of this former Socialist Forum leader as a neo-hardnose and potential statesman.

Even so, she couldn’t resist shiny-eyed appeals to conversation as the alternative to conflict, as if Israel could just talk its way out of mortal danger.

COSTELLO, on the other hand, spoke passionately and entirely without notes, so comfortable was he with his topic.

He told jokes, recounted Australia’s gallant military history in Palestine, and pointedly reminded the Israeli and Australian crowd that “some” of those present had defended Israel from their student days.

Which means others hadn’t, Julia.

Costello was in command. Gillard was merely auditioning.

Had more Liberals seen it than the three who were present – including Turnbull’s chief tactician, Christopher Pyne – even more would have added their voices to the one Costello heard a few days later by the hill of Golgotha.

Peter, rise again. Your people await their Messiah.

1 Response to “Will Peter Rise Again?”

  1. 1 Maurice

    Thanks for this valuable information. Trust you and the folks there are well and rejoicing.

    God bless. Maurice

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