Crean is gone. No-one gets the kind of friendly visit he received today and survives as leader. Although my opinion of Crean rose somewhat over his time as leader, I think the time is right for him to go. In retrospect, his biggest mistake was spending his first year on party reforms that no-one except Tony Abbott cared about. It cost him heaps of political capital, earned him bitter enemies within the party, and made hardly any difference to the dire state of the branches. He could have saved the day after defeating Beazley if he’d been bold and consistent enough on policy, but that was never going to happen with Latham as shadow Treasurer.
Assuming he resigns soon, the best option for Labor, if it could be managed would be to draft Bob Carr. The obstacles are immense. It would require all the other candidates to shelve their ambitions, a self-sacrificing local member to give up a seat and the Parliamentary Party not to find some way of stuffing it all up. Appealing though the idea is, I don’t think it’s a goer.
Leaving that aside, the choice is, I hope, a no-brainer. Beazley and Latham both had lots of strikes against them anyway, and they’ve spent the last six months bagging each other. Excluding a bunch of candidates who might be good but who don’t have the profile to score a win, we’re left with Rudd. He’s not incredibly exciting, but neither was Carr as Opposition Leader (neither is Carr now, for that matter). Like all the other candidates he’s not particularly ideological, but unlike them, he hasn’t committed himself to a bunch of silly commitments on domestic issues.
Even with a change of leader, the odds would be against Labor. But the closeness of the polls in two-party terms indicates the lack of either broad or deep support for Howard. With Rudd as leader, and some good luck for Labor or bad luck for the government, the election will be a real contest.