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The campaign proper for the Labor leadership and thus the battle to become Australia’s next Prime Minister began this morning as former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd arrived back in Australia from his last official overseas engagement before resigning his post..

In a self aggrandizing move, he held a press conference at Brisbane airport that achieved little more than to announce that he will hold another press conference later today to announce whether or not he will contest the leadership ballot which the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has called for 10am on Monday.

A couple of important things did come out of the Seinfeldesque press conference about nothing. Firstly, that Kevin Rudd will not go quietly if he indeed does contest the ballot and subsequently loses. Julia Gillard has issued a challenge for the loser to go quietly into the night and retire to the back-bench never to aspire to the leadership again…but we know you can never say never in politics and Kevin Rudd has upheld that by refusing to commit to going quietly. The result of that is that regardless of the outcome of Monday’s leadership ballot, it won’t end there.

The second thing to come out of the press conference about nothing was Rudd’s reaffirmation of his plan to win back the leadership by swaying public opinion. There’s no question that Rudd is far more popular in the electorate than Gillard and numerous polls have demonstrated that. But the public don’t get a vote in this ballot, or do they? Let’s not forget that in December of 2009, Tony Abbott was able to wrest the Liberal leadership from Malcolm Turnbull following a swell of anti-Turnbull, or more accurately, anti-ETS sentiment amongst the general public. Liberal MPs were frightened into supporting Abbott for fear of a backlash against them in their own seats. Whilst we can’t compare these two challenges exactly, there are some clues in that result.

Most senior ministers have come out in support of The Prime Minister. So forcefully in some cases that the vitriol heaped on Kevin Rudd by his own colleagues has been breathtaking – and somewhat hypocritical. But the cabinet is not the only source of votes. Self-preservation is a strong motivator and there are many backbenchers in marginal seats staring down the barrel of political oblivion and whilst they might not like Kevin Rudd the man or even the leader, they like him a lot more than they would the prospect of unemployment. So Rudd’s strategy of enlisting the voters to lobby their local members to vote for him is one that just might work – even if the sight of his wife Therese Rein and his daughter Jess Rudd publicly declaring their undying love and support for dear Kev might have you reaching for the Stemetil.

On the face of it we’re lead to believe that Kevin Rudd only has around 35 votes in the Labor caucus and that’s not enough to get him  back to The Lodge, but it might be a big enough base if indeed people power does sway enough frightened backbenchers. It’s certainly enough to mortally wound Julia Gillard’s ability to exercise power within the party room even if she does win. Rudd can then challenge again at a later date, or a third candidate may rise from the ashes. Either way, Rudd’s revenge for his dumping at the hands of those closest to him will be complete.

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