This is getting serious. For five days in a row by my assessment Labor has lost the media battle of words and pictures. The prime minister just cannot seem to get away from talking about Kevin Rudd -- a subject she would love to ignore.
Yesterday Julia Gillard continued her macho woman approach by making a threatening, but completely hollow, promise to sack from a future Gillard Cabinet any minister naughty enough to leak details of a Cabinet meeting to a member of the press. It might sound wonderful but the trouble about leaks is that ministers do not put their hand up for making them and do not confess if and when confronted.
Proof of disloyalty will be hard to get unless Gillard is prepared to resort to the good old days when the Country Party's Deputy Prime Minister John McEwen called on Prime Minister Harold Holt to have ASIO tap the phone of his Cabinet rival, Treasurer Billy McMahon, to get proof that Billy really was leaking to then newsletter publisher Max Newton for whom I worked at the time.
Billy was leaking, of course. It was a highlight of my Sunday afternoons to answer the phone to hear his squeaky voice calling in to give Max a weekly Cabinet meeting update. Not from his home phone, mind you, but from a Woollahra public phone box to because the Treasurer guessed he was under surveillance.
It didn't do the McMahon career any harm either. With the retirement of Black Jack, the leaker went on to achieve his goal of becoming Prime Minister after another act of political bastardry when he led the coup against incumbent Liberal Leader John Gorton before Gorton, like Kevin Rudd, had been allowed to complete his first term after winning an election.
Perhaps Tony Abbott would like to reflect, incidentally, on that little episode before again pretending that there was something unique about the deposing of Rudd when it just followed on in the grand precedent established back then by the Liberal Party. The only difference between the two Prime Ministerial assassinations that I can see is that in the McMahon/Gorton case the party room was equally divided whereas with Gillard/Rudd it was not a contest at all because the challenger had such a clear majority of the votes.
Not that such matters are at all relevant to this continuing election campaign where the great fear of the Labor campaign brains trust must be that another embarrassing revelation will be dropped by the phantom leaker. It is perhaps because of that apprehension that the Crikey Election Indicator continues to move slightly in the Coalition's favour.