There is a tendency to see the Abbott government as an aberration much as there was to see the Rudd-Gillard period as an aberration. It is not. This is it.
2013 could be summed up as the year when neither Labor under Rudd, nor the Coalition under Abbott proved capable of filling the gap left by the exhaustion of Labor’s historical project under Gillard.
If the left’s last hope is disruption from the Liberal right, so Abbott is helped by the phoney polarities of the left. The pas de deux continues.
Rudd’s departure does not mean the Australian political system will be any less vulnerable to an anti-political attack either from within or without. It’s just that it is unlikely next time it will be done with such panache.
Into a vacuum could step somebody that has never made a point of standing for anything (or behind anyone) in particular. From that angle, Labor might have just found its best candidate.
The will for unity merely reflects the reality of Labor today after the historic left-right battles and the more recent battles between the reformers and the power brokers have run their course.
The end of that tension in Labor is because Rudd’s failure has meant there is now no one in Labor who can turn an attack on the party’s existing power structures into an electoral asset.
Rudd’s problem was that he did not clarify why he was distinct from the party that had dumped him and the institutions that had blocked his return, which would have given the “New Way” slogan any meaning.
Rudd appears to have learnt lessons in exile, but the main one doesn’t look to be to consult more with his colleagues.
The lack of a convincing reason on the source of Rudd’s popularity, is not because political commentators are thick, but because the answer is uncomfortable.