So it’s Kevin Rudd, 49 votes to 39. Jenny Macklin has finally recognised the contribution she made to the cause and didn’t even bother to nominate. Julia Gillard is now deputy Labor leader.

Now we’ll get the honeymoon. Mark Latham was also elected leader at the beginning of December, on 2 December 2003. He had a great honeymoon – but we all know what happened on 9 October the following year. What about next year’s election? That’s the real game.

That means much is up to the new shadow ministry. Forget the lame ducks who have lost their preselections. There are some rolled gold duds there. Even if Nicola Roxon hangs on as shadow attorney general now, for example, everyone knows she’ll be gone the moment Mark Dreyfus arrives in Canberra.

Fixing the frontbench may have saved Beazley. The election of the shadow ministry has been delayed until Thursday, but Labor needs to sharpen its attack. Lindsay Tanner deserves a senior economic portfolio. Bob McMullan has experience and credibility. Plenty can be done.

Labor’s main weapon, of course, is Peter Garrett. Labor won in 1990 when it took the fight to the Greens – while winning their preferences. Give Garrett a new portfolio which deals with a range of resource security and sustainability issues and the opposition will be in a strong position.

Or course, the Prime Minister will be able to counter this. Speculation about a Government reshuffle increased – quietly, but unmistakeably – over the weekend.

And it’s impossible to understate the power and influence of the big policy surprises governments can pull on oppositions to cut them out of the game – steps like the child care initiatives hinted at over the weekend.

So roll on the reshuffles. On them will rest the failure or success of opposition leader Kevin Rudd.

For a less-than-impartial take on Rudd as leader, click here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey