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In a sudden and unexpected onslaught, the nation’s first woman Prime Minister Julia Gillard was tossed aside as leader of the Labor Party in a leadership election.
She called the election expecting to win, but lost by 57 votes to 45 as former prime minister and party leader Kevin Rudd mustered enough support to oust her – and the support he had was certainly not there three weeks ago when Gillard called another leadership poll.
Both have stood toe to toe slugging out leadership of the Labor party for many years.
Gillard was accused of conspiring to topple Rudd before the last general election, but with another fast approaching later this year, commentators expected her unpopularity to lead to a loss of power for the party.
Now, with the election imminent, Rudd has to decide when to name the big day.
However, he is hamstrung for the moment because Gillard is still Prime Minister even though she is not party leader, and Rudd cannot take the top slot back until she has sent a letter of resignation to the governor and he has invited the new leader to form a government.
After the leadership tussle, Gillard made a statement confirming she will not stand in the election. She is expected to retire from politics.
“I will not contest the federal electorate at the next election,” she said.
“However, I do know that the next woman prime minister will find her job easier, as will her successor and the woman after her, and I’m proud of that.”
No love lost
Commentators will attest no love is lost between Rudd and Gillard, who have openly fought at every opportunity since she pulled the rug from under his leadership in 2010 to take the Prime Minister’s job.
However, the writing is on the wall for the Labor government that has plummeted down the popularity polls in recent weeks. Many believe with defeat looming, many MPs saw Rudd as their only hope in retaining their seats even if Labor loses power, so acted to protect themselves at the cost of their leader.
The repercussions of the coup are not yet over. Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan has already resigned and others are expected to fall on their swords as Rudd strives to surround himself with friends and allies.