Gillard's victory settles question of who is the top dog
Bitter, divisive battle for leadership of Labor Party sees PM win out – for the time being
Julia Gillard will remain Australia's prime minister for the
foreseeable future after seeing off a bitter leadership challenge
by her predecessor and former foreign minister, Kevin Rudd.
However, the in-fighting in the Labor Party is unlikely to end, despite more than two-thirds of the 103 MPs and senators backing Ms Gillard as leader.
She won 73 votes, compared with 29 for Mr Rudd, in a ballot in Canberra this morning. One MP was absent after recently giving birth.
The challenge took place after Mr Rudd resigned as foreign minister during a visit to Washington last week, saying it was clear he no longer had Ms Gillard's trust. But it had been brewing since she ousted him as PM in June 2010, with the blessing of many of her colleagues. Mr Rudd, who had won a historic election victory in 2007, ending more than a decade of conservative rule, was languishing in the opinion polls before the coup. But colleagues now say he led a "chaotic" and "dysfunctional" government, leaving them with little option but to replace him.
Both he and Ms Gillard had called for unity following today's ballot. She said: "The important thing is that... there is a result and following that result, everyone accepts it and gets on with the job... The things that unite us in the Labor Party are far stronger than anything else."
But others warned that the Gillard government's problems – particularly the fact it appears to have no chance of winning an election due by late next year – will not go away.
Moreover, the party's image has been badly dented by the recent mud-slinging and recriminations.
Mr Rudd – accused by his colleagues of sabotaging the 2010 election campaign by leaking information damaging to Labor – said before the ballot that he was tired of being blamed for the government's problems. It was "time people accepted responsibility for their own actions", he said, in a pointed reference to Ms Gillard.
Although he has promised not to challenge Ms Gillard again, Mr Rudd's respectable defeat gives him enough credibility to bide his time and launch a second leadership bid.
"As the next election day approaches and Labor's unelectability is confirmed, rising panic in the caucus ranks could fuel a second Rudd strike in the year ahead," the Sydney Morning Herald's political editor, Peter Hartcher, writes in today's paper.
Alternatively, Labor could try to find a compromise third candidate for leader, untainted by the recent battles.
An opinion poll in today's Australian puts Labor support at 35 per cent, its highest for a year, but still behind the conservative opposition.
It also confirms recent polling suggesting that Mr Rudd is more popular than either Ms Gillard or the opposition leader, Tony Abbott.
Bruce Hawker, a Labor strategist who ran Mr Rudd's leadership campaign, warned that if the polls failed to improve, Labor would lose 30 seats at the next election, meaning it "could be out of government for the best part of a generation".
Mr Abbott called on the independent MPs who prop up Ms Gillard's minority government to withdraw their support and force an election.
"If the independents have any respect for good government in this country, they will bring down the curtain on this shambles," he said.
- 1 Autism 'caused by genetics', study suggests
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Why you should never make assumptions about people with autism
- 4 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
How Homer Simpson discovered the Higgs boson over a decade before scientists
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Harrison Ford plane crash: Star Wars actor 'seriously injured' after light aircraft crash lands
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...
£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Help Desk Support individ...
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are going through an excitin...
£37500 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Quantity Surveyor r...