Lots of speculation over the last couple weeks. The radio this morning tells me that Gillard no longer has the numbers in caucus, but that Rudd won’t challenge, it will have to be triggered somewhow. Someone had told the radio that it would take “two senior ministers publicly switching sides,” which feels like wishful thinking – do they actually have it on authority from Rudd that such a thing would make him challenge, or from Gillard that that would cause her to stand aside? I suspect not.
The Galaxy poll this morning says that Gillard has lost support amongst men and gained no support amongst women – the gender war she ignited has unsurprisingly not brought any votes to her (when she’s seen as the protagonist, and therefore as divisive), and has annoyed a bunch of people. Bluntly speaking, you cannot win an election by dividing the voters into two equal size groups and demonising one of them – because that requires you to win 100% of your half. If you’re going to play the politics of division you have to divide into a big group and a small group, and demonise the small group – think “the rich” or “immigrants” or “employers”, not “men”.
What do I think is likely to happen?
There are a lot of unknowns here, and things could change quickly with a couple of bad days. But blogs are uninteresting if they just say “I don’t know what will happen”, so my predictions are.
Firstly, I don’t think Gillard will step aside. She’s stared Rudd down too many times, she thinks he’s weak and that he’ll blink. She hasn’t come this far to give up now.
Secondly, I don’t think Rudd will challenge. I think he knows the election can’t be won, and I don’t think he really believes he has the numbers reliably – too much chance of someone changing their minds at the last minute. But I don’t think he’s getting a comeback after the election – other than maybe as a caretaker whilst the blood letting goes on.
Next, I don’t think 2 senior ministers will switch sides. Most of them have come out too strongly in favour of Gillard, and too strongly against Rudd. Switching to Rudd also means going to be backbench, or losing (even more) credibility. Although realistically they all know Gillard is toast one way or another, so staying loyal to her only makes sense if you plan to retire. Some of the younger Ministers might see the value in changing sides.
Shorten doesn’t really want it until after the election – someone else has to take it and lose, and probably someone else has to be the transitional leader. Maybe Crean? The history of oppositions in Australia is that the person who gets it first gets shot after a while because they’re still polling badly. Like Brendan Nelson.
Another prediction: Gillard will overreach again. She and her advisors are desperate, they’re pushing too hard. She wants the education package this term, she won’t be around to pay for it. Watch them pour more money into it to drive the states to sign up. If all the states sign up then Abbott will have to honour it, or so the promise will go. I think Abbott would be wise to get out there with a statement that if it’s too expensive then he’ll repeal it, even if all the states sign up.