Editorial : Expect more sparks

00:58, Jul 01 2013
Kevin Rudd
BACK IN CHARGE: Kevin Rudd has retaken control of the Labor party, beating Julia Gillard in a leadership challenge.

In recent Australian Labor Party history, there's been no such thing as a Ruddless coup.

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was knifed by Julia Gillard, whereupon he set about two years of personally recuperative destabilisation. Not on his own behalf, you understand. As recently as last March he was making it emphatically clear there were no circumstances whatsoever under which he'd return to the leadership.

And now he resumes the leadership anyway, explaining that, well, things change.

Indeed they do. Some things.

Apparently the political adage "in victory revenge, in defeat malice" isn't one of them.

As Mr Rudd puts it, he's been hearing voices. Some of them came from colleagues in the corridors of Parliament, although he insists these were less compelling than the cries from the masses who realised Labor was on course for electoral defeat and feared for their future under any administration headed by Tony Abbott.

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The view from abroad is that the most curious aspect of Mr Rudd's return is that Labor waited this long. The party has known for ages that it faces not just defeat but potential annihilation.

Look what's happened now. Straight away there's been a big swing to the ALP, up 5 per cent to 49.5 per cent.

So why didn't they get him back earlier? You don't want to stand too far back for your perspective of that one, because the problems are in many ways up-close-and-personal ones.

For all his comparatively high standing in public polls, the fact it took this long testifies to the huge distaste with which Mr Rudd is held by so many who have worked with him. It's not that so many of his colleagues like him any better now, it's that they need him. At least for the campaign. After that, let's see.

Meanwhile, Mr Rudd hasn't even needed to preside over the dispatch of his most vocal party opponents. If anything their willingness to go has been a little unseemly. Less a case of dignified steps than a "get me to the guillotine on time" rush.

Now Australia, and the watching world, are faced with the prospect of an Australian election with all the edification and dignity inherent in such contests. Rudd v Abbott. A close-quarter contest in which one contender is personally abrasive, the other rather oily. Expect sparks. And slips.

The Marlborough Express