Labor is being swept with expectations that Julia Gillard will be replaced as Prime Minister before parliament rises for the election, with Kevin Rudd now seen as the party’s only hope of averting electoral disaster.
Shocked by polling and amazed at the former prime minister’s reception in Geelong on Friday, some of Ms Gillard’s staunchest backers are now wobbling in their support.
Since Saturday, federal Labor has been alive with speculation that Bill Shorten has switched his support and pivotal numbers to Ms Gillard in favour of Mr Rudd.
Although Labor figures deny the formal shift they confirm Victorian MPs are now in a state of panic.
Polling in Fairfax Media today suggests Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus would lose his Melbourne seat under Ms Gillard, confirming similar polling in News Limited newspapers last week.
While NSW Labor MPs have been agitating for change for months and former Labor leader Simon Crean from Victoria has called for change and a leadership spill the Victorians, led by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, have held firm.
Labor MPs are now worried the public is becoming more antagonistic towards Ms Gillard and now see Mr Rudd as a chance to avoid a “three term defeat”.
While Mr Shorten has firmed as favourite to become leader of the opposition should Labor lose, it would be a hopeless task if the ALP was reduced to a rump as it has been in the NSW and Queensland state elections.
Richard Marles, the Labor MP for Corio in Victoria, said this morning that the reaction to Mr Rudd in Geelong was typical of the reception he receives from the public.
The leadership speculation has intensified over the past few days following a series of public appearances by Mr Rudd.
When he appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 program on Thursday night, Mr Rudd refused to re-state his position developed after the aborted challenge in March this year that there were no circumstances in which he would resume the leadership, although he did so when pressed by media when visting Geelong on Friday.
Veteran ABC political journalist and former chief-of-staff to prime minister Bob Hawke, Barrie Cassidy, said yesterday he believed Ms Gillard’s prime ministership was in its final days.
“I’m very strongly of the view that Julia Gillard will not lead the party into the next election. There will be a change, either by her own hand or by the actions of others,” he said on the ABC’s Insiders program.
Cassidy said that while Mr Shorten harboured an ambition to lead Labor after the election, he would want to do so from a better base than was in prospect if Ms Gillard remained as prime minister.
New polling in six key Labor-held seats suggested that Mr Rudd would attract almost 7 per cent more votes on a two-party preferred basis.
The automated telephone poll, reported in Fairfax newspapers, found that Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan would achieve a two-party preferred majority of 57 per cent if Mr Rudd were installed as leader, compared with 53 per cent now.
Leadership tensions are likely to build through the next week ahead of the resumption of parliament on June 17 for its final two weeks of sitting ahead of the federal election, which Ms Gillard has nominated for September 14.Source: The Australian – Julia Gillard backers wobble in support
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