Kevin Rudd is much talked about in the press as a potential leader of the parliamentary Labor Party but his one main drawback is rarely mentioned in the stories out of Canberra. Most of Mr Rudd’s Caucus colleagues don’t actually like him much as a person.

Now this is not something that gossipy backbenchers often mention to journalists. In the incestuous world of the house on the hill there is always the danger that critical off-the-record comments will get back to the person being criticised. Mr Rudd may not be liked but that does not mean those who do not like his style want him to be aware of their sentiments. He is, after all, one of the few potential successors to Kim Beazley and having a future leader offside for no good purpose is not a good career move.

So while the view that the Labor foreign affairs spokesman is a smooth, glib, cold fish of a man whose Christian devoutness separates him from the social liberalism of most in the Labor Party goes largely unmentioned, it is very much present within the Caucus.

So too is a growing realisation that if Labor is not doing as well in the opinion polls as might be expected it is because the two main weapons in Labor’s attack on the Howard Government, criticism of the Australian involvement in the Iraq war and the related AWB scandal, have not registered with the Australian people. Yet it is Mr Rudd who has wielded those weapons.

Rarely has an MP other than a Party Leader been given so much of question time to press his causes as Mr Rudd has had this year. Rarely has such a concerted effort in the forums of parliament produced so little result.

If Kim Beazley is suffering because his party thinks it should be further in front in the polls, the real criticism of him should be that he miscalculated in thinking that clever sound bites for the television by his foreign affairs spokesman would rattle a man like John Howard. Mr Beazley put his faith in the wrong issues as well as the wrong man.

Under these circumstances, replacing one failure with another would be perverse, even by Labor Party standards.

Peter Fray

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