The latest and last chapter of the Gillard-Rudd leadership crisis is demoralising not just because of its longevity but because it is exclusively driven by polls and is devoid of any idea, policy or direction for the nation's future.
This crisis is a parade of Labor's obsessions. It is about Labor's interests, needs, personalities, hatreds and quest to ameliorate public responsibility for its collective blunders in office.
There is a nakedness in Labor's obsession about itself. The arguments made by Rudd's backers have a single dominating focus: Labor's survival, nothing more, nothing else. The purpose is to minimise the damage to Labor and its trade union backers, to prevent Labor from being reduced to a post-election rump, to stop Tony Abbott getting control of the Senate and to reduce the number of parliamentary terms Labor will spend in opposition.
The feature of this crisis is the near total absence of debate about what Rudd will do if returned as PM. It is not canvassed or assessed. His own supporters seem clueless on it. The media ignore it. Does anybody care? Have we become a brainless country?
The leadership struggle proceeds on the apparent assumption that it does not matter: Rudd is expected to campaign, not to govern.
This badly misreads Rudd, his ambition and his intellectual hubris. If Rudd returns as PM he will have nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting some dramatic ideas on any blank cheque the party gives him. Labor may get the shock of its life. Rudd knows this is the last shot in his locker.
Meanwhile, the ALP does not even pretend this contest has any connection to the public interest. It is about keeping Labor as strong as possible in defeat. Defeat is assumed.
Just a bankrupt party running desperate. This is why the 2013 crisis is so dispiriting. Is Labor pushing for Rudd with the argument he will be a better PM than Gillard? No. Is Labor pushing Rudd because he has a superior policy agenda that can revitalise the government? No. Or because it likes and respects him? No. Or because the party really thinks Rudd can regain majority government? No.
The leadership crisis is born of failure not of aspiration. The party is desperate to stave off an election result delivering an ALP primary vote at 29 per cent.
Because the crisis is entrenched the caucus must resolve the issue before week's end. It would be a farce for caucus to leave Canberra without bringing the leadership to a resolution. Again? Yes, again.
The leadership is repeatedly resolved but is repeatedly re-opened.
Political reality says a Rudd "saving the furniture" exercise has its own validity. The polls suggest Rudd will deliver a better ALP vote than Gillard and ultimately the party cannot ignore this logic. But how much better?
A truly successful "return to Rudd" project is riddled with immense problems. Have they been properly assessed? Labor has form when it acts on polls and gets it wrong. The party completely misread the situation in June 2010 when it deposed Rudd for Gillard.
That was a poll-driven exercise. Labor didn't just read the polls; it swallowed them. The architects of the Gillard push thought they were brilliant. Labor's near universal optimism that switching to Gillard would work in the electorate, was exposed as deluded.
The leadership crisis is part of a bigger, complex story: the structural and policy crisis that confronts Labor as a party. The notion that the public will welcome back Kevin and revert to voting Labor is a fantasy. Too much damage has been done.
Other than within the chattering Federal ALP and the chattering unions, whose grip on the ALP remains ironclad, is there really anything left for any of to say about the state of Australia's Federal politics?
Gillard cannot - will not - win the election for the ALP. She may, like Howard, and with any luck, lose her own seat.
Rudd cannot - will not - win the election for the ALP. He will, unlike most of the current ministers, retain his own seat, and will have nothing to do in opposition other than warm a seat on the backbench. Not a dignified activity for a former Prime Minister. If made the leader, Rudd will not be able to save the furniture.
Someone other than Gillard or Rudd, a third way, cannot - will not - win the election for the ALP. If some other person is made the leader, they will not be able to save the furniture.
Much like magazines that put bans on reporting about Lilo or the Kardashians (albeit temporary; they can't help themselves), it would be wonderful, quite wonderful, if our media would now shut the fuck up about the unforgivable indulgences of the ALP.
Traps in poll driven beauty contest