Constitutional Crisis? More On Potential Fallout From Rudd Return

SOME HOURS after publishing our article last night — in which we stated the Governor-General may have “a role to play” in a return by Kevin Rudd to the Labor leadership — an article appeared in the Fairfax press raising similar questions. It seems the “Yarralumla Prospect,” unforeseen by Labor, is real.

There has been a lot of discussion — openly and behind the scenes — on matters I raised last night in relation to the timing of a return by Kevin Rudd to the leadership of the ALP.

Opinion seems divided among readers of The Red And The Blue about exactly what might transpire if Labor switches leaders after the conclusion of next week’s parliamentary sitting, but few readers who have commented here or raised the matter with me directly believe it likely Rudd will simply be sworn in as Prime Minister in such circumstances.

(Interestingly, some people don’t realise that after next Thursday, that’s “it” in terms of the prospect of a no-confidence motion: even if the election date is changed, Parliament is highly unlikely to sit again this side of an election.¬†One reader pointed out the House of Reps could sit again on August 20, but this would necessitate an election in early October (at the earliest): a politically fraught option indeed for the ALP. But that’s another story).

Now, the “Yarralumla Prospect” — as someone rather quaintly described it to me this afternoon — is openly exercising the minds of others close to the political game as well.

I read with great interest a piece by Mark Kenny that has been published on the Fairfax news sites today (“Labor Risks Majority Crisis”) which readers can access here, and I strongly encourage all to check it out.

It adds another layer to the labyrinth of intrigue that currently shrouds the Labor leadership, who has the numbers to win it, and whether that has any bearing in relation to any move to subject it to a contest.

As I have been frequently pointing out of late, I don’t believe for a nanosecond that Kevin Rudd, at this point in time, commands a majority of votes in the ALP caucus or that he is within a vote or two of doing so.

I do think however that the 71-31 thumping Gillard meted out the last time there was a vote probably overstates her support by about fifteen votes; the margin is a lot closer: the question is how much closer, and whether that gap can be closed out in another week.

Certainly, the mood is far more febrile and fluid than even three months ago, at the time of the non-coup, the histrionics and leaking of “numbers” by the Rudd camp notwithstanding.

Even so, I still think the most likely outcome is that Gillard makes it to the winter recess as Prime Minister, and goes on to face Tony Abbott at an election on 14 September.

But a week is a long time in politics, and on the issue of a potential constitutional crisis arising from a leadership change in the ALP, the key point to my mind from the attached article by Kenny states that

“Both pro-Rudd and pro-Gillard forces have been working on the assumption that the leadership stalemate would be brought to a head…on Thursday next week to avoid a parliamentary no-confidence vote.”

It’s a point that reflects more on Rudd than on Gillard; as the plotter (which is what he is, just in case anyone is naive enough to think his pledge not to return as leader holds water) Rudd — or at least, someone close to him — has thought of this possible pitfall.

A cynic might say that for someone who manages and plans every detail to the minutiae, Rudd must have initially overlooked this; that yet again, he’s been too smart by half, and that even if he made a return to the ALP leadership he couldn’t control the outcome.

The Yarralumla Prospect is alive and well. How it would play out is anyone’s guess.