Peter Costello's remarkable comments on John Howard's apparent fib 12 years ago ('I will stand aside after 1.5 terms') do not advance his personal objectives. In a ballot of the Federal Liberal Party young PC wouldn't stand a ghost of a chance against old JWH for the PM position. So, as an alternative to a ballot, PC is attempting to derive moral weight for the 'top job' from what he claims was JWH's undertaking, made 12 years ago, to step aside 6 years later - this is ancient history. A pity because PC is an excellent Treasurer and his misconception on this issue may backfire on him.
JWH won't forgive because of the damage it does both to JWH and to the Liberal Party. He will not step aside because of this move - he would hate the idea of being seen to have been 'pressured out'. JWH may retire for pre-established reasons - he is renovating his Sydney home - but, other things being equal, this move by PC will only make him dig in his heels and hang on for a while. JWH is an impressive performer and a winner - and he knows both of these things.
The Opposition parties can take limited joy from these events. They don't have the ministerial talent of the Liberal Party and their tattered policy mix doesn't offer much hope to an electorate with an economy enjoying such a sustained period of prosperity. The Labor Party's best hope to regain government is to emphasise divisions in the Government and watch them do just that.