There’s only one good reason why Kevin Rudd will not scurry off to the polls early in August and that’s if he thinks he certainly can’t win. Even if the prime ministerial judgement is that the prospects are a little dicey he will be encouraged to take the plunge. For delay that allowed Parliament to reconvene after the winter break would be confirmation that Rudd thinks defeat is likely and faced with that prospect his Labor caucus colleagues would start seriously thinking about the Julia Gillard option. If being thrown out even before an election is too horrible to contemplate, then it is time to get a hurry on.
So far the idea of a leadership challenge is no more than that — a vague thought in the back of the minds of those in the most vulnerable seats as they mull over all the “what ifs” about the forthcoming election. Opinion polls — the unreliable and meaningless guide that they are at this stage of the electoral game — do influence backbenchers and especially so when they are pointing in the same direction as their own interpretation of what the public in their own electorate thinks. When a young hard head such as former federal ALP secretary Gary Gray starts getting anxious, we can deduce that the message he is getting from the people of Brand is certainly troubling.
Not that even a new leader would fix the big problem that Gray has identified. Labor will go to the election advocating a super profits tax on mining whether it is a Rudd, Gillard or some-one-else led government. The best that ALP members from Western Australia and Queensland can hope for is a change or two at the fringes that will take enough heat out of this particular debate to get people thinking about other things as well.
The best way of broadening the issues of the political debate would be to call an election quickly and if Rudd was listening to my advice, he would be driving out to Government House this coming Sunday afternoon and thus neutering any talk of a caucus revolt before the next Newspoll produces a predictable next round of leadership speculation.