The Gillard government is suffering a gathering crisis of confidence in its leader.
Leadership shift denied
Bob Carr backs Julia Gillard after suggestions he might support a leadership change.
Not because of any assault by Kevin Rudd. Indeed, whenever he has tried to foment unrest, the Labor caucus has hardened against him.
Labor's fast-draining confidence stems from the performance of Julia Gillard herself and her inner circle. After deposing Rudd, Gillard argued privately that she had moved against him not because he was behind in the polls but because he had no plan to put Labor in front.
Today, the Labor caucus is asking the same question about Gillard. Labor didn't win the 2010 election. Since then it has only lost support in the opinion polls.
''There have been 27 Nielsen polls since the 2010 election, and this is the 27th showing the Coalition in front,'' wrote the Fairfax pollster, Nielsen's John Stirton, on Monday. There are 178 days left until the election Gillard has called. The question Labor MPs are asking now, in the words of Dirty Harry, is ''am I feeling lucky?''
Not only is Labor consistently behind in the polls, its leader has not articulated a credible plan for any recovery. And it's hard for her caucus to feel lucky with regular displays of political misjudgment by Gillard and her closest allies.
At the end of last year, it was Wayne Swan's admission that the government's iron-clad promise of a budget surplus was no longer achievable.
Joe Hockey, who has no record of achievement as an economic manager, is now preferred treasurer although Swan has presided over one of the world's most successful economies.
And last week it was Stephen Conroy's media regulation proposals. Gillard rammed the plan through cabinet and caucus, angering many in the process, and started a fight with the big media companies. Yet all for nought. The plan is now set to fail in the House for lack of support.
Leadership shift - or not?
Bob Carr has firmly denied any shift in his support away from Julia Gillard, as time runs out for Labor to change leaders.
These are the reasons a key Left faction cabinet minister, Mark Butler, and a key Right faction cabinet minister, Bob Carr, are openly telling colleagues they have lost confidence in Gillard. The dam of Gillard support has now been breached.