The real reason Peter Costello has dragged out his departure – his book launch

At last Peter Costello has declared his hand. He won’t run for leadership and he is planning to leave politics. Critics point out that this has been his agenda all along, but he has kept the nation, his party and his supporters guessing to garner publicit

At last Peter Costello has declared his hand. He won’t run for leadership and he is planning to leave politics. Critics point out that this has been his agenda all along, but he has kept the nation, his party and his supporters guessing to garner publicity before launching The Costello Memoirs next Tuesday.

And now he has declared his intentions, it also appears he is going to stick the boot in to his party on the way out the door in an attempt to rewrite history in his favour. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports this morning, in an interview with reporter Peter Hartcher, Costello squarely blames John Howard for the loss of the election.

He says people had switched off. “The only way to crack through, in my view, was to get a new face on the government. And it was the failure to renew that cost the Liberal Party government.”

Costello claimed that Howard never seriously planned to retire because he enjoyed being PM. And if Howard had won the election, he would today be creating new justifications for why he would need to stay on, he says. But Costello says he never mounted a challenge for the simple reason that he never had the numbers.

And he warns the Liberal Party that it has to consider its “cult of the leader,” which is in contrast to Labor’s “cult of the party”.

His declaration that he will not seek the leadership position saw Liberal frontbencher Nick Minchin today call on the party to get behind leader Brendan Nelson. But it also fuelled speculation that the party will now remove Nelson and replace him with Malcolm Turnbull as early as next week.

So in the short term, the Liberal Party remains in turmoil, an ineffectual opposition, distracted from challenging the Labor Party on the issues affecting Australians.

Ironically, Costello told Hartcher that by refusing to retire to allow a renewal of the government, Howard had failed as leader: “Leadership’s also about your departure, you know,” he told the SMH.

Costello could well heed his own advice.

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