A month ago, I couldn’t see it happening. There has been quite a bit of speculation around the traps in recent weeks about the leadership of Federal Labor, but I’m not sure that too many people took it completely seriously. Then suddenly, in a matter of hours yesterday evening, it all happened. Senior factional figures within the party evidently put forward a case to Gillard for standing against Rudd that she could not refuse. It would be very interesting to know exactly what precisely compelled her to act, to turn on a dime under pressure after months and years of proffering resolute support for her leader. She has been pushed off the proverbial cliff on this, and I think we all deserve to understand why.
Federal Labor has just shot itself in the foot in a dramatic way; one recalls the damage ultimately done to the party by the Latham challenge. I’m not sure what sort of risk assessment was conducted by the folks pulling the strings here. If Rudd somehow clings to power, against all odds, he will be critically diminished. The Opposition will be able to pick at the bones of Rudd’s credibility all the way up until the impending election. If Gillard wins, she will have a lot of explaining to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. An election may be called within days so that Gillard can establish a mandate from the people, nullifying the Opposition’s likely line of attack. What is she going to do differently – what is she offering that is really any different? If she is going to do a number of things differently to Rudd in a policy sense, how can the people trust what Federal Labor say anymore, given that just days and weeks ago she was talking up her leader’s credentials and direction? We have no idea about what Gillard’s personal views are on the RSPT, climate change, or any number of other issues. Presumably, at least in part, her personal views may be deemed irrelevant. The so-called faceless men may well decide what her views will be.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Julia Gillard will make a great Prime Minister – one day. But that day is not today, and I still don’t think this is the right time or the right path, for her, or her party. If the putsch succeeds, it will have been a rise to the top characterised by cowardice and panic, driven by people who care more about polls and the state of the spin cycle than just about anything else. Of course the alternative, now that the putsch has been rammed maniacally into motion, may be even worse.
Happy unbirthday, Tony Abbott!