In 1988, Paul Keating, then Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, went to see his good mate, Bob Hawke, then Pime Minister of the same venerable Commonwealth. Paul wanted to remind Bob of the deal they'd made bfore the 1983 election to transfer the leadership of the ALP and the Prime Ministership from Bob to Paul. Bob told Paul he must have imagined it all. Deal? Never heard of it. Paul and Bob had a full and frank. Plenty of the latter. It came down to a simple choice for Bob: make a deal for real or face an immediate challenge from Paul. Bob agreed to a witnessed meeting at which they would agree the terms of the arrangement.
The meeting took place at the Prime Minister's official residence in Sydney, Kirribilli House. The two seconds chosen by the contestants were: in the Keating corner, Bill Kelty, union official; in the Hawke corner, Sir Peter Abeles, prominent businessman. Those choices, alone, say quite a bit about the two men. Kelty and Abeles sipped coffee and chatted in a corner of the lounge while the two politicos thrashed it out. When the terms were agreed they witnessed the final form of what would become known as "The Kirribilli Conspiracy". Bob was to hand over to Paul in mid-1991. Of course, came June 1991 and ol' Bob found that, in the best interest of the Party and the People he couldn't keep the deal. At that point Paul did challenge, lost and went to the back bench. In the spirit of scrupulous honesty exemplified by Bob he said, "I had only one shot in the locker." He then started ruthlessly planning the next attack. In the week before Christmas he gave Bob the arse for a present, winning the second challenge by a few votes. Bob went to the back bench, promising to serve out his term to 1993 as a good constituency MP. A few months later he quit Parliament, blessing the ALP with a by-election which was won by an independent.
This is a story which contains the template for leadership challenges. The recent vicious struggle between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard has been fashioned by Kevin on the same strategy (if it works why change it?). The second phase is now in play; the long stew on the back bench while garnering the votes to make the grade in six months. I listened to the concession speech which Kevin gave yesterday and recognised it for the fine of piece of work it was; lovingly crafted over many months and delivered with the best of Kevin's efforts in method acting. It opened with a display of masterfully confected adultness and reasonableness to show that he's not a bitter obsessive seeking revenge. Throwing himself into the part he covered the bases with glory: profusely praising the Foreign Affairs officials to show that he's not a bastard of a boss; thanking everyone in sight and out of it. This is to show that he's not a miserable ingrate. I gave up at that point. He may have gone on to thank the ants and earthworms in the grounds of Parliament House for their efforts but I turned off with the salutation, "You lying bastard."
Anyone who believes this is really over is off with the fairies. He's not going to just sit on the back bench and work for the reelection of the government. The only question is how long he will take to show his hand.