When I studied history and politics at uni in the mid 90s, I learnt about the British election of 1945. Despite having just been Prime Minister of Britain through years of war and defeating the Nazi regime, Winston Churchill led his party to an election against Labour’s Clement Attlee, and got wiped out.
It seems that when the war started, a government of national unity was formed, and this meant that both Conservative and Labour leaders were involved in Cabinet. The result was that by 1945, after years of war (and no elections) the senior people in the Labour Party had credibility as alternate leaders for the country. So in that sense, the Conservatives had created their own defeat.
That story has come back to mind today, as I watch our Prime Minister share the limelight with Kevin Rudd. Howard wanted this conference to be his great opportunity to be a ‘statesman’, sharing media coverage with world leaders such as Putin, Bush and many others.
Instead though, the evening news is dominated by things like Kevin Rudd speaking Mandarin at a press conference with China’s Hu Jintao. The week is giving Rudd a chance to stand with such leaders along with the Prime Minister, and he’s coming across as competent and more in tune with the region than Howard.
Tonight though, a great story on the news, as Laurie Oakes claims that Alexander Downer has approached Howard and given him the word. Oakes says Howard will not be Prime Minister by the end of next week. According to the media, the biggest challenge they’ve got is convincing Peter Costello to step up. He sees it as a poisoned chalice apparently – to lead his party in the lead-up to an increasingly inevitable defeat.
It’s making the bet I put on a few months ago – against Howard winning in the seat of Bennelong – look like a good investment. 🙂