SENIOR Labor MPs says the leadership is Julia Gillard’s for the taking before the election – if she wants it.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s control of the party has entered a treacherous phase, with Cabinet ministers and backbenchers canvassing the idea of changing leaders before this year’s federal election.
As Ms Gillard was forced yesterday to publicly deny she wanted the top job, Labor MPs described Mr Rudd as a “leader under fire” and said his prime ministership was “terminal”.
Rudd has never been that popular within his Caucus – respected but not popular. He appointed a Cabinet without going through faction heads. Personally this was a good thing to do, but it did create enemies.
I’ve just been reading the infamous Quarterly Essay on Rudd by David Marr. This is one one where he refers to the Chinese as trying to “rat fuck” Australia at the Copenhagen summit.
Marr points out that both Rudd and Gillard were seen as potential challengers to Kim Beazley, and that they met to decide who would challenge. Gillard actually had more MPs backing her, but Rudd refused to consider being her deputy, so she agreed to serve as his deputy.
She is unlikely to challenge, because she knows that will create more enemies for her. But there may come a point where for the good of the party, she is pressured into becoming Leader.
Senior Labor sources said Ms Gillard has always had the numbers to seize the leadership, but not necessarily the will to challenge for the top job.
“She would get it pretty easily right now, but I don’t think she wants it,” the source said.
I think she wants it, but on her terms. Labor are waiting for Tony Abbott to self destruct, but if he does not then they may panic and try to roll Rudd before the election.
However even then Gillard may prefer to let Labor lose, become Leader of the Opposition, and then try to become PM in her own right within three years.