“Rebels plan Beazley coup ‘by Christmas’,” the front page lead of The Age screams today. “Kim Beazley’s ALP critics are ramping up a concerted destabilisation campaign to try to force a change of leadership to a Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard team, possibly before Christmas,” Shaun Carney and Michelle Grattan claim.

Really? Perhaps it’s something to do with global warming, but the summer silly season appears to have come early.

Matt Price described it on the weekend as a “phenomenon that has become almost as reliable as carols by candlelight and cricket — end-of-year wobbles in the federal Labor Party” .

Year after year the Christmas decorations seem to go up in the stores earlier and earlier. Perhaps it’s the same with Labor leadership talk.

Greg Baxter, the director of corporate affairs for News Limited, however, is playing the Grinch. He has a very blunt letter in the Fin today:

Your “Beazley-bashing gathers momentum” (November 20) reports that Rupert Murdoch will back Labor if it installs a Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard leadership ticket. This is wrong. No one at News, including Murdoch, has given any hint of any such thing to Beazley, Rudd or Gillard or to any apparatchik on either side of politics, or to anyone in the press gallery. We weren’t asked for a comment in response to this illusion, and there isn’t any evidence of any kind in the story to validate the claim.

So perhaps this Christmas ritual deserves a big “Bah, humbug!” for now. Carney and Grattan are two of our best – but look who they cite in their story:

  • Supporters of Mr Rudd, Labor foreign affairs spokesman, and Ms Gillard, the health spokeswoman…
  • Moves against Mr Beazley are driven by several senior party members…
  • Labor MPs who have become disillusioned with Mr Beazley…
  • Mr Beazley’s detractors…
  • Critics in senior ranks of the party.

The only Labor pol with a name attached to comments in the story is retiring backbencher Harry Quick, who’s been muttering into his beard for more than a year now and making empty threats to force a by-election.

While critics in senior ranks of the party remained silent about Mr Beazley, backbencher Harry Quick lashed out publicly at him yesterday, calling for an immediate change to Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard and extensive changes to the shadow ministry.

That’s as unexpected – and as newsworthy – as Jason Akermanis throwing a tanty.

Peter Fray

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