A chance for an easy dollar. Attention all of you people out there who think that the talk of a challenge to Julia Gillard’s leadership is nothing but a media invention. There is now a wonderful opportunity to profit from journalists being so wrong.

The bookmakers and the betting exchange now have Kevin Rudd the clear favourite to lead Labor at the time of the next federal election. This morning there was $2.92 available for a dollar that says the Prime Minister would still be in the job.

Putting the odds in the form of the Crikey Leadership Indicator and we find the probability of PM Gillard still being leader come election time is down to 32% with the chance that she will not be leader assessed at 68%.

The truth versus fatuous nonsense. How refreshing to hear junior federal minister (and former Labor federal secretary) Gary Gray honestly answer a question on the leadership during a television interview last night. The Special Minister of State, on Sky News, said  it was clear there were leadership issues within Labor and he chided his colleagues for claiming journalists were “making it up.”

Mr Gray said speculation surrounding the Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s grasp on her job was a serious matter because it went to the “good governance of the country.”

“Therefore it’s silly of politicians to suggest that somehow the media makes this up. People talk to journalists. I do think it’s important to keep that fact in perspective,” he told Sky News.

Labor had achieved “remarkable” success in pursuing a difficult agenda in tough circumstances. “Having said that, it is clearly the case that there are tensions. “But it is clearly also the case that we’ll manage those, manage our government and manage our parliament in the best interests of all Australians.

Over on the ABC Treasurer Wayne Swan was far less frank. In his version of the leadership stories it was still all a beat-up confected by the media. He told the 7.30 program:

“And I don’t intend to add to it.

“I have taken Kevin Rudd at his word. He says he’s not interested in doing it, he says he’s not involved. That’s it.”

Breaking a political tradition. I cannot recall a previous occasion when the leader of one major democracy actively campaigned for the leader of another in the run up to an election but that is what the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is doing for France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.

With the first round of voting in France just over two months away, Chancellor Merkel is making no secret of her support for President Sarkozy. Last week she pledged to support her fellow conservative on the campaign trail and on Monday the pair appeared together for a television interview.

With the French socialist candidate Francois Hollande comfortably leading in the opinion polls it is a risky strategy but it shows just how vital the German leader sees the alliance with France is in getting her strategy of economic austerity imposed on Europe.

A socialist victory would shatter all that and destroy the growing optimism that the troubles in the Euro area are at last being brought under control.