Three years after being knifed by Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd gets revenge and returns as Australian Prime Minister

 

Sydney

In an extraordinary turnaround in political fortunes, Australia's former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, wrestled the top job back today from Julia Gillard, who ousted him nearly three years ago to the day.

Mr Rudd, who was publicly tearful after being deposed in June 2010 and since then has plotted almost incessantly to regain office, was expected to be sworn in as prime minister tomorrow morning by the Australian Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, after  Ms Gillard, 51, formally resigned tonight.

In a piquant twist, Ms Bryce's son-in-law, Bill Shorten, played a pivotal role in the downfall of Australia's first female leader. An influential figure in Ms Gillard's Labor Party and prime mover in the 2010 coup, Mr Shorten publicly switched support to Mr Rudd 20 minutes before Labor politicians voted in a leadership ballot.

Once close colleagues, Mr Rudd and his former deputy had become sworn political foes. Although their enmity remained largely unspoken, Gillard loyalists had denounced him as "dysfunctional", "deeply flawed" and "a psychopath with a giant ego".

Such quotes have been seized on by the conservative Liberal Party, and are already being aired in  TV advertisements which are expected to be frequently replayed in the run-up to an election later this year.

Today's dramatic events lanced the boil which had been festering at the heart of Australian politics since Welsh-born Ms Gillard became prime minister. After the ballot, which Mr Rudd won by 57 votes to 45, an at times emotional Ms Gillard said she would retire from politics at the election.

It was poor polls which led to the 55-year-old Queenslander being knifed during his first term in office - an unprecedented event in Australia. And it was even poorer polls that led to a second sitting prime minister being dumped, amid predictions of the biggest landslide defeat for Labor for generations.

Mr Rudd - who may bring forward the election, set for 14 September - enjoyed widespread popularity after he was elected in 2007, ending 11 years of conservative rule. His ratings plummeted after he announced a new tax on wealthy mining companies, and abandoned an emissions trading scheme.

After he was unseated, the public took to him again, and polls have consistently shown that Labor would fare much better with him at the helm. However, it is doubtful whether he can actually win the election, rather than just saving seats. One commentator compared the leadership change to "putting a new collar on a three-legged dog".

Tonight, Mr Rudd - a former diplomat and fluent Mandarin speaker - was conciliatory, praising Ms Gillard as "a woman of extraordinary intelligence, great strength and great energy". He also promised there would be "no retribution, no paybacks",  and said he intended to "lead a government that brings people together".

For her part, Ms Gillard said she was proud of her government's achievements, which include major health and education reforms, taxing big polluters for carbon emissions, introducing a disability insurance scheme and setting up a royal commission into child abuse in the Catholic Church and other institutions.

Mr Rudd - who lost a previous leadership challenge last year - is expected to unveil new policies in the coming days, likely to include changes to the widely disliked carbon tax and measures to stop the flow of asylum-seeker boats reaching Australian shores.

But he inherits a minority government and a divided party, with nearly half of his parliamentary colleagues still opposed to his leadership. Today saw an exodus of senior ministers, includng the Treasurer, Wayne Swan.

The great paradox is that while Mr Rudd is popular with voters, he is loathed by many colleagues, as well as by civil servants in Canberra, who have been dreading his return. A smiley, folksy personality in public, he is said to be foul-tempered, despotic and terminally indecisive by those who have worked with him.

What Ms Gillard will do now remains to be seen. She may return to her former profession: the law. Noting today that her great-niece is expecting a baby in July, she said she looked forward to being "the most meddlesome great-aunt in Australian history".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture