What Happened Last Night?: A Political Hangover

This morning, we have a new (old) prime minister, Kevin Rudd - though very probably not for long, with an election on the horizon and the ALP commanding just 29% of the primary vote in the current Newspoll.

Six ministers have resigned: Wayne Swan, Greg Combet, Peter Garrett, Craig Emerson, Stephen Conroy and Joe Ludwig. Rudd backer Anthony Albanese will replace Swan as deputy leader; he fronted the media with Rudd last night as the former PM announced his return, nearly three years after he was ousted by Julia Gillard, who had judged that ‘a good government has lost its way’.

Gillard kept her composure in her concession speech (above) last night. She spoke about the difficulty of governing while battling attacks from within her own party as well as from the Opposition, and of the significance of being the first female prime minister.

‘The reaction to being the first female PM does not explain everything about my prime ministership, nor does it explain nothing about my prime ministership,’ she said. ‘I’ve been a little bit bemused by those colleagues in the newspapers who have admitted that I have suffered more pressure as a result of my gender than other PMs in the past but then concluded it had zero effect on my political position or the political position of the Labor party.’

Television schedules were thrown out and political reporters kept up late as the historic events unfolded; by the end of the night, the media seemed to be growing weary (and, in the case of reporters standing in front of Parliament House in the Canberra night - cold).

Rudd said he was returning to the role of prime minister, to which he had been elected in 2007, ‘with humility, with honour and with an important sense of energy and purpose’. He abhorred the ‘negative destructive personal politics’ of recent years and acknowledged the achievements of Julia Gillard, as his deputy and then as prime minister ‘under the difficult circumstances of minority government’.

Tony Abbott was the last to speak - he spoke of the need for ‘strong and stable government’ and called for a quick election, so that ‘the people, and not the faceless men of the Labor Party choose the Prime Minister and the government of our country’.

‘Just a couple of simple facts: in 2007, you voted for Kevin and got Julia. In 2010, you voted for Julia and got Kevin. If you vote for the Labor Party in 2013, who knows who you’ll end up with.’

The Liberal Party has already launched an advertisement bringing together the worst of the criticisms of Kevin Rudd, made by ALP insiders over the past three years. You can watch it below.

Labor Chaos

In the news

The Guardian’s deputy political editor Katherine Murphy (formerly a political reporter for the Age) delivered a balanced and perceptive assessment of Gillard’s strengths and weaknesses last night. ‘Gillard’s consistent failure to reassure is the common thread behind the series of events that have led her to this day, to this inexorable end.’

Also in the Guardian, Jane Caro writes ‘that the problem for female leaders is that we are still not yet ready to give them the space to be merely human. We allow them an either/or position only. They can either be inspirational and amazing or terrible, dreadful, the worst we’ve ever had. For women, the difficulty is that there is no middle ground.’

On The Conversation, Michelle Grattan declares, in a snappy headline, that ‘Rudd wins the Game of Thrones’. She says that, ‘Labor has finally made the decision it ought to have taken long ago, but the counter-revolution has been extremely bloody and there are bodies all over the place.’

On The Drum, Annabel Crabb asks a series of questions about what happens next - including a series based on the wisdom of following the polls (which, she told Leigh Sales last night, creates poor leadership). ‘What if the polls turn out to be chimeric after all, like they often do in these situations? What if the people who answered “yes” to the poll question about whether they would be more likely to vote Labor if Kevin Rudd were restored to the Labor leadership find a new thing to be grumpy about now that’s been done?’

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