Bring on the pollsters. The opinion polls created the climate that led to the speculation about a Labor leadership challenge. All those months showing Labor’s primary vote hovering in the low 30s and a two-party vote deficit of 8-10 points or more were enough to make even MPs in seats the party has held for yonks worried about their future.

Given the turmoil of the past week, those MPs will be even more apprehensive as they await what the pollsters discover in the next few days about their relative prospects under the leadership of Prime Minister Julia Gillard or retiring Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

A substantial preference in the polls for the Queenslander might yet be enough to make the contest closer than it currently appears to be.

Until the real thing comes along. Just to keep you poll junkies going until the proper pollsters deliver their verdicts on what Australians think of the challenge, here’s a round-up of how readers of some of the major news websites were voting mid-morning:

  • The Age: Has Rudd done the right thing? With 67,090 responses: Yes 78%; No 22%
  • Sydney Morning Herald: Who would you prefer to lead the Labor Party? 12,303 responses: Julia Gillard 15%, Kevin Rudd 60%, someone else 25%.
  • Nine MSN: Do you want Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister? 81,809 responses: Yes 59%, No 41%. (presumably the 41% includes those who want Tony Abbott.)
  • Melbourne Herald Sun: Should Rudd now challenge for the Labor leadership? 18,250 responses: Yes 76%, No 24%. Should a federal election be called now? 55,840 responses: Yes 83%, No 17%
  • ABC News Radio: Federal Labor will again decide on its leader on Monday: who would you vote for? 152 responses: Julia Gillard 41%, Kevin Rudd 59%
  • The Drum on the ABC: Who has done the dirty here? 1994 responses:  Kevin Rudd 31%, Julia Gillard 29%, A plague on both of them 24%, Neither, it’s just politics 15% and yesterday imagining for a moment that you were in the ALP caucus, would you: 5802 responses — Vote to keep Julia Gillard 43%, Prefer a third candidate 31%, Vote for Kevin Rudd 26%.
  • Yahoo 7 News: 813 responses: Should Kevin Rudd challenge Julia Gillard for the Prime Ministership? Yes 79%, No 21%.

All very unscientific, of course, but hardly a ringing endorsement for the Prime Minister. Perhaps more interesting is the big difference in the various response rates on the sites — the gap between Nine MSN and Yahoo 7 is enormous.

Gillard’s worst-case scenario. And all those ministerial Rudd knockers prove to be correct. Monday comes, the man stands for the leadership and suffers the humiliating defeat they are predicting. So the vanquished says he accepts the harsh judgment of his colleagues and thus retires immediately from the House of Representatives. How stable is the government going to look then? One thing we could be sure of is that real action would be taken to curb those poker machines!

Why would anyone trust her? Surely the most pointless promise ever made by Julia Gillard was that if defeated on Monday she would retire to the backbench and renounce all leadership ambitions.Why would anyone believe her? Broken promises are the reason she is in the electoral trouble she now is — starting from the day she abandoned her pledge as Kevin Rudd’s loyal deputy.

Or let the market be your guide. Wary fellows those bookmakers who have built a fair bit of protection into the prices they are offering on Monday’s leadership contest. Can’t say I blame them really for it is a rapidly changing game. In its summary of the market the Crikey Election Indicator makes it Gillard to win 67%, Rudd 22% and someone else 11%.

So much for the immediate future but the punters do not think that the instability will necessarily end after this caucus vote. The indicator on whether Gillard will lead Labor at the time of the next federal election is Yes 45% and No 55% and improvement for the Prime Minister from last week when the probabilities were assessed at 30% and 70%.

Better than bank interest. It’s hard to think of a worse time to be running for election under the Labor Party banner. Any slight chance Anna Bligh had of being returned as Premier of Queensland at next month’s election has surely gone.

Goodness knows why the Crikey Election Indicator still has the Liberal National Party only as a 90% chance of forming the government. Should be more like 99% by more reckoning notwithstanding my normal belief in the power of the underdog factor.

I will be taking the $1.10 for $1 still available in a few places.

Peter Fray

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