After a dramatic day in federal Labor politics, two things
are now clear. One is that Kevin Rudd didn't have the numbers
to become prime minister.
After the February 2012 leadership ballot, Rudd said he
wouldn't challenge again - unless he was drafted by an
overwhelming majority of the Labor party and the position was
The second is Julia Gillard believes she has Tony Abbott's
measure - despite consistent opinion polls and internal party
research pointing to the contrary.
The question now is - is the Labor leadership stable?
Will Labor's polling worsen to the point caucus goes begging
to Rudd mid-year, perhaps in the final week of parliament
before the winter break and the federal election campaign
which starts in August?
Rudd would not be breaking his word in that case, if Labor
felt it must harness his immense public popularity to get it
over the line in September.
Gillard insisted on Thursday the leadership "business" was
But there will be ongoing concerns about her government's
focus, underneath a lingering cloud of voter distrust in the
Simon Crean - who was sacked by Gillard on Thursday after
demanding a caucus ballot and telling her he was backing Rudd
- highlighted these worries.
And former Hawke-Keating government minister was clearly
disappointed Rudd didn't grab the opportunity he had created
for the former prime minister.
"It meant me putting my differences aside with Kevin," he
"He should have run, there's no question about that.
"That in itself would have been an important cleansing for
Perhaps so, but Gillard prevailed.
The self described "feisty woman" again cemented her
And Rudd lives on - with clean hands - to fight another day.
For others, the retribution was swift.
Crean was stripped of his ministries and parliamentary
secretary Richard Marles fell on his sword.
Open Rudd backer and chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon
also is gone, together with deputy whips Ed Husic and Janelle
And while Gillard believes voters will reject Abbott's
"relentless negativity" and embrace Labor's plans for the
future, the trust deficit is a tough nut to crack.
Gillard will need to do two things if she is to move on from
the tumult and heal the party.
First, find a way of incorporating Crean's wisdom into a new
narrative for her Labor government and battered ALP state
branches across the country.
And, second, integrate Rudd in a more constructive way into
the Labor campaign.
One way or another, his popularity could still drag the
government from the brink of political oblivion.