Former treasurer Peter Costello says he “probably” would have led the Liberal Party to election victory in 2010 if John Howard had handed over the party reigns to him.
In an explosive interview with The Australian published on Monday, Mr Costello, who served as treasurer between 1996 to 2007, said he warned Mr Howard he would lose the election.
“I said: ‘You are going to lose. You are going to lose your seat. It is time to go’,” Mr Costello said.
“He wouldn’t go. So I had decided at that point I had done as much for the party and as much as I could for the country.
“It was time for me to begin a new chapter. And I thought the party should be able to turn over a new leaf.”
The 57-year-old said he had several chances to lead the Liberal Party, but for various reasons decided not to nominate before retiring from parliament in 2009.
“If I had run against Howard in 1995, I might have beaten him. I might have. But, again, the party would have torn itself apart…”
“I think the right decision was to bring him back and we won the  election.”
Mr Costello also alleged new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered him several postings overseas after the Howard government lost – something he said was a sign Labor feared him becoming opposition leader.
“That was certainly Rudd’s view.”
“Rudd did everything he could to get me out of parliament. He offered me all sorts of inducements, including diplomatic appointments.”
Speaking on the eve of the Abbott government’s second budget, Mr Costello also said the Senate had too much control over the budget and described reform as “an endless battle”.
He also lamented the lack of “wit and cleverness” in parliament today, and said the political debate had become”shallower”.