By MICHELLE GRATTAN
An extraordinary orgy of self-destruction has left Labor looking a shambles, with Julia Gillard now facing a reshuffle and an almost impossible task to get her government into fighting form for the September 14 election.
Nearly three years ago, Kevin Rudd was brought down by Gillard and her backers in a coup that came out of nowhere. Gillard said the government had to be got “back on track”. Now her government is more off track than the Rudd one ever was.
The 2010 coup was brutal; the 2013 attempted coup was farcical. If you count yesterday, Labor has had three chops at its two prime ministers in under three years. Even in this hyperbolic age, that smacks of irrational behaviour.
Look at things from the vantage point of ordinary voters. A majority have said repeatedly in the polls that they want Rudd back as Labor leader. Many Labor MPs in marginal seats believe he would give them a better chance of survival.
The Rudd forces have prodded and pushed to try to reinstall him. Their effort reached a crescendo this week, with lobbying of backbenchers and planted media stories – including one saying that good polling for Rudd in one South Australian seat in 2010 had been kept highly secret so as not to hinder the coup.
Former leader and cabinet minister Simon Crean gave the marginal seat holders their chance. They chose not to take it.
Chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon encouraged Crean into the move. Crean had recently met with Rudd, sorting out differences; he had been critical of the Rudd style in government.