The leadership speculation in the ALP has been all the rage in the media over the last couple of weeks, and if there’s one thing we love at The Bucket, it’s letting the real media have a go at a subject for a couple of weeks and then cherry-picking a smart-arse response. So here goes.
The two ways of approaching this story rely on different understandings of Kevin Rudd’s mental health. The narrative in which he is currently canvassing for support and planning a leadership challenge assumes that his unquenchable thirst for leadership and the love of the Australian people is roughly similar in ferocity to Bono’s desire to “feed the starvin’ children”, and that it has eclipsed entirely anything resembling common sense or political calculation in his mind. The second assumes that while his desire to lead is strong, it might be more in the range of Joe Hockey’s need for sustenance, which we note with admiration has been rather well tamed in recent months.
Any Kevin Rudd supporter should be hoping that the second option is closer to the truth, because the first has two possible outcomes, both of them not very good.
If Rudd challenges, which he would probably need to do next month so as to make time for preparations leading to the Budget, and wins, he would essentially be taking the wheel of a car which everyone has pretty much decided they’re happy watching drive off a cliff. To speculate that he could pull off a dramatic turn-around in the polls after the downturn they tend to take following a change of leadership at this late stage and considering their current position is probably more wishful thinking that justifiable hope.
If he challenges and loses he would have destabilised the ALP for no result twice in just over a year, and would likely lose some if not all support he would be able to garner before the vote within the party and the electorate.
The more mentally stable approach would be to wait until after the election, and have a shot at what will likely be a vacant ALP leadership. He would not even need to wait three years for another crack at the job he clearly thinks he was born to do, because Abbott’s pledge to repeal the Carbon Tax will likely lead to a double-dissolution election early in the new parliament.
Whether or not the ALP would lose this in a land-slide or at all, and whether the ALP under Rudd would choose to force it is a matter of contention, however it is much less certain than the outcome of the contest on September 14th. Perhaps the more interesting question is whether Malcolm Turnbull would be willing to ride the pine for another three years, or if he would challenge after the election, potentially removing the prospect of the Carbon Tax’s untimely demise, and therefore the double dissolution election itself, possibly trapping a new ALP opposition leader on the wrong side of the chamber with no escape in sight.