VETERAN campaigner John Howard has been encouraged by Denis Napthine to join him on the state election trail later this year.
Dr Napthine said he regarded Mr Howard as one of the nation’s best-ever leaders and would be proud to have him feature in the Coalition’s campaign for a second term in Spring Street.
His comments come after the former prime minister addressed the Liberal Party faithful in Melbourne last week, sharing the stage with Dr Napthine at the organisation’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
“John Howard is an icon of Australian politics — he’s arguably the best prime minister Australia’s ever had so it would be a honour for him to take part in the campaign if he chose to take part,” Dr Napthine said.
“People will recall his leadership when it came to gun control (following Port Arthur massacre), international leadership in East Timor’s move towards independence, paying back the national debt, setting up the Future Fund.
“I’d be very pleased to have John Howard (as part of the state Liberal campaign). He’s admired by many, many Australians.”
Dr Napthine met with Mr Howard and his wife Janette at the Flemington Racecourse dinner which recognised 70 years since Robert Menzies formed the Liberal Party from a range of fragmented centre-right groups.
“It was fantastic to catch up with John and Janette. He still very much takes an active role in the Liberal Party and supports the cause whenever he can,” the Premier said.
Following his departure from office seven years ago, the former PM has formally campaigned with Tony Abbott at 2010 and 2013 federal elections and alongside Queensland Premier Campbell Newman at the Sunshine State’s 2012 election.
In Victorian politics, Mr Howard endorsed Ted Baillieu during his 2010 bid for power although did not actively campaign with the former state leader.
Mr Howard has enjoyed a renewed spike in popular perception during the past few years with an Essential Media poll naming him as Australia’s most popular prime minister.
The poll of all living PMs placed Mr Howard in first place with former rival Bob Hawke securing 14 per cent of the vote.
Incumbent PM Tony Abbott and predecessor Malcolm Fraser tied for last placing in the nationwide survey, with only three per cent of the vote each.