Too Late for Gillard to Save Herself

By Niki Savva

After 28 minutes, when the Four Corners crew finished filming that interview in her office, Julia Gillard shook hands with her inquisitor, Andrew Fowler, told him her leg had "gone numb" and wished him good afternoon. That was it.

There was no protest from her about his line of questioning, no reprimand from her staff, no complaint, other than the numbness in her leg.

Six days later when it screened, and as you watched Fowler refusing to let her off the hook, you knew this modern Australian tragedy was drawing inexorably to its finale.

On Saturday night after the angry ant YouTube video was posted, one of Kevin Rudd's backers contacted Sky's David Speers, who was having dinner and offered up a midnight special, an interview with Rudd.

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The tale of the two interviews is instructive.

Rudd seized on an apparently unexpected and unwelcome development to sell himself while Gillard managed to use a pre-planned, predictable one to kill herself.

Rudd was disciplined and contrite. His pitch, that he is not perfect, only a better person than he was, drove his enemies into hissy fits rivalling his own, but rang truer than Gillard's protestations of innocence and ignorance.

Sorry, (and I really do mean sorry, Julia) unless Rudd does something incredibly stupid, and he hasn't for a while, it's over.

Gillard is now so vulnerable, her position so fragile, there is almost nothing she can do to stop it, or fix it, or make it better. She has left it too long to save herself.

If she allows it to run, she risks becoming weaker while her enemies grow stronger. If she pulls it on now, even if she wins the first ballot, no margin will be big enough to end it or consolidate her position. Even if she sacked Rudd today, as Simon Crean and others are urging, it will not finish him or protect her. It is too late.

Proof she has run out of options was her stonewalling yesterday. She did not wilt and nor will she. Instead she is hoping if she can only convince people her support in caucus is overwhelming -- so strong she is prepared to live with Rudd's private machinations and public denials of undermining -- it will turn the pressure back on him, forcing him to back off and make it all go away. It won't.

Rudd's psychological warfare, waged hourly, daily about when and how or why he might move against her -- before or after the Queensland election, with one challenge then another, or after she next stumbles -- will not end until he achieves his objective to destroy and replace her.

It is a tragedy for Gillard, and the many people who believed in her, and it is sad when someone with so much promise fails.

However, it was obvious from the outset, and surely she must have known it anyway, given how long she has been around politics, that after being knifed Rudd was not going to disappear and bleed quietly to death.

After the election, weakened as she was, she should have left him to fester on the backbench, rather than bring him back in as Foreign Minister and provide him with a platform. As a much hated figure in the Labor Party, he would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild from the backbench then. He had nowhere else to go and no inclination to go.

He would not have quit because he would have convinced himself resurrection was possible and not beyond a person of his talents.

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