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Numbers shifting back to Rudd

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Election pressure builds for Gillard

Senior Labor figures call for a more prominent role for Kevin Rudd in this years election.

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Support for Kevin Rudd among Labor MPs appears to have grown, placing the former prime minister potentially within striking distance of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the event of another challenge.

Estimates put his backing as high as 45 votes out of 102 Caucus members, although Ms Gillard's supporters insist it is lower.

The shift in sentiment follows Labor's trouble-plagued start to the election year, which has shaken MPs and fuelled perceptions of disorder.

Adding to Ms Gillard's discomfort, two of her most senior ministers on Monday said Mr Rudd was an electoral asset.

''I think he is an asset and we should use him, but it has to be a disciplined asset,'' said Arts and Regional Development Minister Simon Crean.

Mr Crean was one of Mr Rudd's harshest critics last year but believes the party would benefit from his popularity.

Ms Gillard's chief parliamentary tactician, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, also called for Mr Rudd to be returned to the fold.

''Kevin Rudd is an asset to the Australian Labor Party,'' he told Sky News. ''We need to engage Kevin Rudd and use him wherever possible. He's a very popular figure, there's no doubt about that.''

With her leadership now facing greater scrutiny, Ms Gillard on Monday pleaded for loyalty.

At the first ALP caucus meeting for the year, she blamed internal disloyalty for some of Labor's problems, revealing that journalists had told her that MPs had been waiting for the return from holidays to complain about her leadership.

One caucus member, however, said Ms Gillard ''needed to look closer to home''. The MP said Ms Gillard had enjoyed the backing of most MPs during 2012, but this support had noticeably weakened on the back of ''a terrible start'' to the election year.

''We needed to make every post a winner in order to catch the Coalition by polling day, but it hasn't gone to script so far, not at all,'' the MP said.

A series of self-inflicted political wounds has sapped morale and reignited talk about whether anything would be achieved by another leadership change.

These blows include the clumsily handled dumping of Northern Territory senator Trish Crossin and the timing of the election announcement, which was followed closely by the resignations of two senior ministers.

Ms Gillard's reduced support, confirmed to Fairfax Media by multiple sources from both sides of the

caucus, raises the possibility of a second leadership challenge by Mr Rudd, although his supporters say no move is imminent.

Estimates put Mr Rudd's numbers as high as 45 votes - a figure regarded as ''not unrealistic'' by a key Gillard backer, who put it ''closer to 40''.

While Mr Rudd would need 52 votes to win, it is thought that backing in the mid-40s would be enough to build momentum in a leadership ballot.

He received just 31 votes to Ms Gillard's 71 in the bruising leadership ballot a year ago. In the immediate aftermath of that challenge, Ms Gillard's backers believed her two-to-one margin would be sufficient to end the Rudd threat.

However, the former foreign minister has not only remained in politics but has recently begun to ramp up his public profile.

Last week he returned to the the Seven Network's Sunrise program, appearing with the opposition's Joe Hockey. That pairing reprised his regular appearances on the high-rating show that helped to make him a household name in 2006 - a key factor in his rise to the Labor leadership that year.

Voter support for the government, which had been slowly recovering throughout the second half of 2012, has tanked again, according to two separate polls published in News Limited papers.

Labor MPs are particularly concerned about the decline in Ms Gillard's personal standing compared with that of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

According to Newspoll, Ms Gillard's standing as preferred prime minister has deteriorated by 4 points to 41 per cent, while Mr Abbott's has climbed by 6 points to 39 per cent in the two weeks since the previous poll.

The poll also showed that the number of people satisfied with her performance has dropped, while the number of those dissatisfied has risen. The opposite was the case for Mr Abbott. The Opposition Leader used a pep talk to his frontbench yesterday to presage a more positive approach to combat Labor's branding of him as ''Dr No''.

''People expected us … to hold the government to account, and we certainly did that, but I think what people are now looking for is for a little bit more from us,'' he told them.

''They want us not so much to be an opposition but to be an alternative government … and that is exactly what you've been getting over the last few weeks.''

With Labor bracing itself for another tough parliamentary session from Tuesday, Mr Crean said the party could win in September despite the recent setbacks.

''We are behind and I have acknowledged that. But we can win. It is difficult but we have to hold our nerve and our conviction and our belief, not just in what we've done but what we plan to do.''

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56 comments

  • If Julia Gillard is replaced by Kevin Rudd, that may put a false veneer on the ALP but the beast will be the same. The big question is what would they do to Kevin Rudd after the election?

    Commenter
    James
    Location
    NSW
    Date and time
    February 05, 2013, 8:34AM
    • Who cares?

      The ALP will be in opposition for many, many elections to come until they move towards the centre of Australian politics and start supporting families instead of their trade union mates.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Location
      St Kilda
      Date and time
      February 05, 2013, 9:48AM
    • The leadership challenge I'm more interested in is the challenge to Abbott by Turnbull, as soon as the polls start coming back to Labor again which they will Abbotts negative popularity will have the LNP wondering what to do, there's only one answer and that's Turnbull as much as he's hated by a lot in the LNP caucus.

      Commenter
      Bushy
      Location
      Cressy
      Date and time
      February 05, 2013, 10:31AM
    • Re Bushy / CressyFebruary 05, 2013, 10:31AM

      If that gives you comfort then you believe it.

      Commenter
      James
      Location
      NSW
      Date and time
      February 05, 2013, 2:04PM
  • Human beings are in the main crisis driven and this is particularly true of politicians. When there very handsome perks of office are under threat as they are now, they will act. If the polling holds true until the election, a very large number of Labor politicians will lose their seats. If it is perceived that returning to Rudd might cut the losses by half, they will act. Ms Gillard should indeed be worried about her hold on leadership.

    Commenter
    Big Al
    Location
    Monty
    Date and time
    February 05, 2013, 8:38AM
    • Use him as an asset?? Maybe if is not so disciplined again, take him down. Is that how ALP view all of us? so what is this government using us as?? I have been paying and paying with merely no returns this last 5 years.

      Commenter
      omnisapian
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 05, 2013, 8:39AM
      • Is it any wonder that ALP voters are turning to the other Labor Party in their droves. The DLP are truly back and will win upper house seats in September.

        Commenter
        Tell the Truth
        Location
        Eltham, Victoria
        Date and time
        February 05, 2013, 8:40AM
        • Would Rudd seriously think of coming back? He was roundly crucified at his last challenge and now those same men, notably Crean, are grovelling to him. If I was Rudd I would tell them to shove it and face the consequences of a heavy defeat.

          Commenter
          Marklab
          Location
          Melb
          Date and time
          February 05, 2013, 8:43AM
          • Rudd wont challenge Gillard he will wait until the ALP are desperate to get him back and then he will be in a real position of power and the unethical morons who outed him in the first place will have to accept his terms. We all know they will do anything to win. They want their perks, pay and power and don't fancy returning to Civie st. I would be happy to see a woman PM but not someone has lied constantly and who has the same alley cat morals as the men that preceded her. Rudd may have had workplace flaws but I am sure he has learned from his past behaviour. He deserved what any other worker would have got. People who had the guts to tell him the error of his ways and give him the opportunity to change before getting the sack. I thought that was how Labor workplace laws were supposed to work.

            Commenter
            Hope Rudd wins
            Location
            ACT
            Date and time
            February 05, 2013, 12:53PM
        • Lets us hope Gillard stays so she and her femo-fascists can be wiped out in September and we can have a Prime minister worthy of the position

          Commenter
          Kab
          Date and time
          February 05, 2013, 8:45AM

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