The Dwarf [Glenn Milne] is just a frustrated politician; fancies himself as a player, not just a commentator: Circa 1997, he told me how he backed Keating over Hawke and planned to do the same thing for Costello over Howard. He should stick to his day job. (p. 189)Milne kicked off the whole story in an article in the Sunday Tele. However, if Milne is really trying to use Walletgate to get Costello into the Lodge then its been a spectacular disaster. What did he think was going to happen? Even if he could prove that Howard lied that hasn't stopped Honest John in the past. And since the whole story hinges on the interpretation of a private meeting that happened over ten years ago, who gives a stuff?
Costello's own confused words proves this. On Monday afternoon he said:
He told me that he intended to do one and a half terms as Prime Minister and then would hand over. I did not seek that undertaking ...That doesn't sound like an undertaking to me. Howard oulined what he planned to do and those plans have changed. So what? Costello should ask Milne to stick to his day job indeed.
Update: Having just watched Milne on Lateline it is clear that the strategy is to set up a credible threat. That is, if Howard goes to the next election, Costello will challenge and bring them both down together, ruining Howard's legacy. Basically, Costello is saying that since I can't have the leadership on a platter I'll extort it out of you; anything but having to actually gain the support of my colleagues.
Is the threat credible, though? I still think Costello has greater payoffs from sticking around and waiting for Howard to leave. Howard may want to reevaluate how quickly he promotes Turnbull though.