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Prophets of leaders' doom in June will have to get used to disappointment

As winter edges its chill into the soul and June creeps towards its end, it has become almost ritualised in Canberra for soothsayers to warm their cold hearts with predictions about the end of political leaders.

The 24th day of June in 2010, you may recall, sent Kevin Rudd into a tearful departure following the Julia Gillard coup. Three years later, on June 26, 2013, Gillard made good her promise to quit Parliament after Rudd made his short-lived return to power.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, chattering has gained new energy as glacial winds blow into Canberra from the Snowy Mountains and a new poll shows Tony Abbott to be about as popular as a hot water bottle that has turned frigid and sprung a leak.

This week's Fairfax-Nielsen poll has Malcolm Turnbull twice as loved as Abbott . . . though more of that in a moment.

Labor's Bill Shorten is getting the treatment, too, with a naughty columnist in The Australian declaring his leadership rival Anthony Albanese has been bad-mouthing him to anyone who will listen.


Worse, Mark Latham has leapt into print in Fairfax newspapers to defend Shorten from what he calls the drum beat of radio shock jocks and character assassination in the trade union royal commission.

The excitable Christopher Pyne took up the theme in question time on Monday, portraying Shorten as a Kiplingesque Rikki-Tiki-Tavi under attack from a nasty snake.

"Some people call the member for Grayndler (Albanese) and the member for Maribyrnong (Shorten) people's choice versus the faction's choice. But at the moment, they're more like the mongoose and the cobra," Pyne cried.

Over-keen to deflect attention from Abbott's difficulties, Pyne seems to have forgotten that Kipling's mongoose saved a whole family from the cobra.

Even the bookies, however, are piling in on Abbott's current standing.

''Malcolm Turnbull must be smiling like a Cheshire cat off the back of the latest poll numbers showing he's twice as popular as the PM,'' declared Will Byrne, of Sportsbet, which is offering short odds on a Turnbull leadership bid. Being bookies, the same organisation is also betting Turnbull won't do any such thing.

Perhaps the odds calculators have looked more closely at the Fairfax poll than most.

If they have, they'd have discovered that Turnbull's big support comes from Labor and Greens voters. Among Coalition voters, he's barely more than half as popular as preferred leader as Abbott (28 per cent to Abbott's 45 per cent).

In short, the opposition is barracking for Turnbull and the Coalition is supporting Abbott.

At some point, the Coalition might figure out it would be nice to grab a swag of Labor and Green votes courtesy of Malcolm. But on these figures, certainly not now.

Shorten is not about to get the June treatment, either. Even if Albanese is saying unkind things about him - and he says it's a fiction - the twice-failed Rudd left a legacy of rules that mean the chance of a leadership change would require a wholesale revolt in the caucus, followed by an excruciating vote of MPs and rank-and-file members that would take months.

The prophets of doom are in for a disappointing winter.

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