Today’s contradictory events see Kevin Rudd resign as Foreign Minister, in apparent anticipation of his sacking from Cabinet next week; the game is over for Kevin Rudd, and yet this story still has some way to go before it is concluded.
Before we get into it, though — here’s a clip that is most suitable, given this afternoon’s events. If you can’t click it, paste it into your browser.
There’s no need to outline the background to the leadership ructions that have been underway in the ALP for the past year or so; everyone knows that.
But forces close to Julia Gillard determined to bring these matters to a head; today it was circulated that next Tuesday she would call a leadership ballot, and that if Rudd failed to stand, or if he stood and lost, he would be sacked from the ministry.
Today, at 5.30pm Melbourne time — and at 1.30am in Washington, which is where he is — Rudd resigned as Foreign minister, and from the Gillard government.
As someone who has been critical of Kevin Rudd ever since rumours began emanating from the Queensland public service in the early 1990s, which Rudd ran at the time, I can only say with some satisfaction that I believe this to be the end of the malodorous and noxious political career of an imbecile so self-obsessed as to have displayed a complete and utter contempt for his colleagues, his party, and for the Australian public.
In his press conference this afternoon — again, Melbourne time — Rudd sought to take the moral high ground; that he did not enjoy the support of his leader and that consequently “attacks on his character” had gone unrefuted, and that as a result he saw “no honourable course” other than to resign.
If only it were so simple.
It is common knowledge that Rudd and/or those close to him have, since the precise date of his deposal as Prime Minister, have undermined, backgrounded against, frustrated and thwarted Gillard at every available opportunity.
And the simple fact is that despite having led the ALP out of the wilderness in 2007 after 12 lean years in Opposition, he systematically and completely alienated so many of his fellow MPs that they now find a crushing election loss preferable to allowing him to resume the leadership of their party.
That’s the nub of the matter but again, it’s not really so straightforward.
It’s inarguable that on the present trajectory, the ALP is headed to a cataclysmic defeat at the hands of Tony Abbott — whenever the next election occurs.
It is also inarguable that Julia Gillard is electoral dead meat; a Prime Minister so reviled and distrusted by the Australian electorate that she could tell the people that the sky is blue, and they wouldn’t believe it.
So here we are. What happens?
I am reliably told that in a hypothetical leadership ballot against Rudd, Gillard has a minimum of 70 of the 103 caucus votes in the bag.
Little wonder Rudd resigned today.
It has further been reported in the press this evening that — just for the look of it — Gillard plans to declare her position vacant when the caucus reconvenes next week, and to invite nominations.
My strong advice to Rudd is not to bother.
I understand his hurt at losing the Prime Ministership, and I understand his grievance at the way in which that event occurred.
I also further reiterate that he probably only had himself to blame for it, based on the method with which he executed his approach to that office.
But the party that turned to him in 2006 and dumped him in 2010 refuses to embrace him; to stand would be a humiliation; and to attempt to make a second stand some months hence would almost be the act of a masochist.
Again, what happens?
Rudd may stand against Gillard; he would be humiliated, but the fact a contested ballot had occurred would ensure the instability in the ALP continued.
Rudd might opt not to stand; even then, forces loyal to him (and again, understandably outraged at his fate) would likely keep chipping away at Gillard, and the crisis would ensue.
It is one of those things that Gillard is unelectable, and will lead Labor to certain decimation if she ever fights another election as Prime Minister, but Rudd must realise that this is no longer his battle to fight.
And even if — some months down the track — a Smith or a Crean assumes the leadership and Prime Ministership in a bloodless leadership transfer, the agenda will be the minimising of electoral losses, not the winning of an election.
And for the record: Kevin Rudd is as unlikely to lead the ALP to election victory in present circumstances as any other candidate, current or prospective.
This must burn at Rudd; it is the hard cold fact of the loss of his life’s dream.
Yet he must move on.
Some might say that what I think should happen is self-serving, given my conservative political outlook, membership of the Liberal Party, and sometime political ambitions of my own.
But the best thing Kevin Rudd could do is to go the step further, and resign from Parliament; he is never going to be Prime Minister, and he is unlikely to ever hold ministerial commission again. It is logical for him to depart.
And should he do so, he should go in the knowledge that whilst the loss of his seat in a by-election might bring down the government, so too may so many other factors in relatively short order — not least, the mysteriously-delayed FWA report into Craig Thomson, and criminal charges which may arise from it.
Today’s events will make no difference at all to the tenure or prospects of the federal government; despite Gillard being a complete incompetent, and even when the egomaniacal Rudd was in charge, the problems were and have only ever really been about policy.
And on policy, the ALP is culpable.
Best for Rudd to slink off quietly into the night, and leave the remaining MPs in his party to get on with what they are doing.
(And to console himself with the knowledge that in 18 months, there won’t be too many of them left).
In the meantime, he can be satisfied that he — Kevin Rudd — did it “His Way.”