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There's A Juicy Rumor John Howard Might Be Considered For The "No" Plebiscite Campaign

"Sounds like a good figurehead to have but I don't know that for a fact."

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Former prime minister John Howard is being considered as the public face of the "no" campaign in the upcoming marriage equality plebiscite, according to a rumor in Liberal party circles.

A Liberal party source confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Howard's name has been floated as one of the people who could lead the "no" campaign in the national vote on the issue expected to come to a head later this year."It's just a rumour at this stage," the source said.Howard has been a lifelong vocal opponent of same-sex marriage. It was under the Howard government in 2004 that the Marriage Act was amended to define marriage as between a man and a woman.Since being voted out in 2007, Howard has enjoyed a surge in popularity. An Essential poll earlier this year found 32% of people thought Howard was the best prime minister since 1972.Howard's office did not reply to requests for comment.Another name being floated is popular NSW premier Mike Baird. But BuzzFeed News can reveal that while Baird would personally vote "no" in the plebiscite, he'd reject the chance to play any public leadership role in the "no" campaign.Marriage equality supporters have played their cards close to their chest recently. There's no indication who will be the public leader of the "yes" campaign, but prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will be supporting the effort.Mystery also surrounds when the plebiscite will be held. Earlier this week, Turnbull flagged on ABC's 7.30 that legislation would need to pass a divided parliament, meaning the vote might not occur until next year.Much of the "no" campaign in the media in recent years has been dominated by outspoken conservative MPs and the Australian Christian Lobby. One of those MPs, Queensland's George Christensen, told BuzzFeed News Howard "sounds like a good figurehead to have but I don't know that for a fact".A spokesperson for the Australian Christian Lobby told BuzzFeed News the group isn't aware of the rumour surrounding Howard. Asked what they thought about the prospect of the former PM being tapped to lead the effort, the spokesperson replied "no comment".
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A Liberal party source confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Howard's name has been floated as one of the people who could lead the "no" campaign in the national vote on the issue expected to come to a head later this year.

"It's just a rumour at this stage," the source said.

Howard has been a lifelong vocal opponent of same-sex marriage. It was under the Howard government in 2004 that the Marriage Act was amended to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Since being voted out in 2007, Howard has enjoyed a surge in popularity. An Essential poll earlier this year found 32% of people thought Howard was the best prime minister since 1972.

Howard's office did not reply to requests for comment.

Another name being floated is popular NSW premier Mike Baird. But BuzzFeed News can reveal that while Baird would personally vote "no" in the plebiscite, he'd reject the chance to play any public leadership role in the "no" campaign.

Marriage equality supporters have played their cards close to their chest recently. There's no indication who will be the public leader of the "yes" campaign, but prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will be supporting the effort.

Mystery also surrounds when the plebiscite will be held. Earlier this week, Turnbull flagged on ABC's 7.30 that legislation would need to pass a divided parliament, meaning the vote might not occur until next year.

Much of the "no" campaign in the media in recent years has been dominated by outspoken conservative MPs and the Australian Christian Lobby.

One of those MPs, Queensland's George Christensen, told BuzzFeed News Howard "sounds like a good figurehead to have but I don't know that for a fact".

A spokesperson for the Australian Christian Lobby told BuzzFeed News the group isn't aware of the rumour surrounding Howard. Asked what they thought about the prospect of the former PM being tapped to lead the effort, the spokesperson replied "no comment".

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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