Michelle Grattan described it as an “extraordinary collective vomit,” the last week in which we’ve witnessed the Labor government expel the secrets of cabinet and the 2010 coup, that is.

Evidently, the scorched-earth approach of Julia Gillard’s supporters has proved devastatingly effective, with caucus voting for her this morning 71 votes to Kevin Rudd’s 31. The ALP may have just killed off the only candidate that could have beaten Tony Abbott.

In a letter from John Button to Bill Hayden dated January 28, 1983, Button attempted to convince Hayden to stand down for Bob Hawke with this appeal:

“You said to me that you would not stand down for a ‘bastard’ like Bob Hawke. In my experience in the Labor party, the fact that someone is a bastard — of one kind or another — has never been a disqualification for leadership of the party.”

In this case, it was.

Former NSW premier Bob Carr wrote on his blog today: “If after Julia Gillard’s decisive victory in the Labor leadership ballot today there is a revival of white-anting against her, the whole party will explode with anger. Especially as this challenge has done so much profound harm; part of which will be reflected in the Queensland result on March 24, 2012. The public reaction against Labor if after today leadership speculation is resumed will be catastrophic.”

But in the unlikely event that the Labor party manages to unite after all this, the collateral damage from this flare up will have lasting damage.

That’s the problem with nasty stain like vomit, it’s very hard to get the lingering smell out of the carpet.

Peter Fray

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