Following last night’s Party Room Caucus coup, newly installed Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd has his revenge. He knifed the woman who knifed him three years ago and is Prime Minister again.
But Julia Gillard has done her best to make sure he won’t enjoy his victory long. She made Rudd take the leadership back in a way that makes it much harder for him to win the election.
Rudd needed the party to unite behind him. He needed the power brokers to admit to a terrible mistake and invite him to replace the woman who failed.
That is why he promised in March there were “no circumstances” under which he’d be leader again.
Instead, Gillard and her backers again put their own interests above their party’s and made him brawl for it. They wanted him to have blood on his hands and he now does. They wanted him to seem deceitful and now he does.
In doing so they also forced some ministers to reveal themselves as double-dealers. Bill Shorten especially has had his reputation trashed by repeatedly making claims of loyalty to Gillard that last night proved worthless.
For all that, Rudd will most likely offer Opposition Leader Tony Abbott a better contest than did Gillard, who was on track to lead Labor to its most catastrophic defeat.
Many voters will feel an injustice has been righted, and a liar removed from office.
Rudd has also benefited from months of great publicity as Labor’s hope and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott still does not command the voters’ affection.
But Rudd’s honeymoon ended last night. Now it’s the turn of the voters to ask: What is Rudd offering us really?
It won’t be a united Labor. Many ministers will feel bound to resign, even though Rudd yesterday said he’d “embrace them serving”.
Treasurer Wayne Swan, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and School Education Minister Peter Garrett only last week repeated their threats to step down if Rudd returned. Resources Minister Gary Gray claimed Rudd “doesn’t have the courage and the strength that’s required to do this job”.
Still, which voters will be shattered by the resignation of a Conroy?
The bigger danger is that some disgruntled ministers will do to Rudd what he did to Gillard in 2010 and sabotage his campaign. Rudd will also have novices in important portfolios to defend his policies.
And speaking of which … the real scandal for voters – and the greatest problem for Labor – is that we have a new Prime Minister about whose policies we know nothing.
Not a single voter really knows what Rudd is offering us, although he’s said to have worked on policy with Chris Bowen, a former minister now tipped to be Rudd’s Treasurer.
How many Labor MPs even know the Rudd policies they must now defend? This is the politics of the mystery box. The politics of narcissism.
THE only promise Rudd has made to the public is the one he broke – to never again challenge Gillard.
Rudd comes in committed to nothing and owing nobody.
Labor’s faceless men, many of them union bosses, have had their party ripped from their hands and Labor now is what Rudd says it is.
But the signs are Rudd will, if anything, pander to the Left – sacrificing desperately needed economic reform and fiscal discipline for cheap votes.
But wasn’t that Julia Gillard’s line, too?
Rudd has branded Abbott, actually a moderate, “the single most Right-wing, extreme Right-wing political leader that the Liberal Party have ever thrown up”, and last night claimed “people are afraid, very afraid” Abbott would bring in WorkChoices.
That’s actually a scare claim Abbott has denied for four years, but it shows we’ll get no workplace reform from Labor.
Nor does Rudd show he regrets racking up giant deficits in his last go. He today accused Abbott of wanting a “slash-and-burn austerity drive”, when Abbott’s planned cuts are actually too little and Labor’s spending utterly reckless.
Most critically, Rudd is unlikely to fix the boat people disaster he unleashed in 2008 when he foolishly scrapped the tough border laws – a disaster Gillard could not fix, either.
In his last days as prime minister in 2010, Rudd vowed he would “not be lurching to the Right on the question of asylum seekers”.
Rudd will also stick with the global warming scare, although he is likely to move sooner to cheaper emissions trading.
Rudd may yet unveil policies very different from Gillard’s. He has already dropped his opposition to same-sex marriage and will scrap Gillard’s ghastly politics of division.
But so far his pitch is simply this: he is Rudd and Gillard isn’t. Nor is Abbott.
Have more money and forget the boats. OK?
Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and hosts Channel 10’s The Bolt Report each Sunday at 10am. He is also heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of radio station MTR 1377, and his book Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.