Julia Gillard and Darren Cheeseman last year: that was then …SOUTH-WEST Labor figures fear their local member has cost them the next election after he publicly pushed for Kevin Rudd to return to the prime ministership.
Nanjing Night Net

Key Labor supporters have questioned Corangamite MP Darren Cheeseman’s judgment after he called for another party leadership ballot, the second in less than two years.

Sources told The Standard that faction leaders, including Senator Kim Carr, directed Mr Cheeseman to take part in an all-out assault on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership over the weekend. Relations between Ms Gillard and the Victorian Left faction have soured since she took over the reins from Mr Rudd in June 2010 and now some powerbrokers have jumped to endorse the former PM.

Mr Cheeseman remained silent yesterday as tensions between the Gillard and Rudd camps were fought out in the public arena.

The factional manoeuvring has angered some within the Labor Party’s Corangamite branches, who contacted The Standard to voice their displeasure at Mr Cheeseman’s lack of consultation.

“It seems like he’s just thrown his weight behind Kevin Rudd at a whim,” one south-west ALP member said. “Factions are really wrestling over this at the moment and Kim Carr definitely has sway over Darren’s line of thinking. All this bitterness isn’t a good look and Darren is really feeding into all that ‘faceless men’ stuff that we need to move away from.”

Another south-west Labor member told The Standard it was surprising that Mr Cheeseman would walk away from Ms Gillard’s leadership.

However, he admitted the Prime Minister had not done enough to promote the ALP’s investment in duplicating the Princes Highway between Colac and Winchelsea, apart from a one-off press conference.

“It’s a slap in the face for Julia because the two of them were closely aligned for years,” the ALP member said.

Mr Cheeseman sur-prised many within and outside the Labor Party when he publicly endorsed Mr Rudd over the weekend for a return to The Lodge.

A former manufacturing minister, Senator Carr has been identified as a leading figure in the Victorian Left faction, a group which also counts Mr Cheeseman as a member.

Senator Carr allegedly switched his allegiance to Mr Rudd after Ms Gillard dumped him from cabinet in December.

Deakin University politics lecturer Geoff Robinson said the leadership quarrel was bemusing given Labor’s slim chance of winning a third term had improved slightly in recent months.

He said marginal seat-holders in both major parties had become less aligned to ideological leaders and more focused on those that have electoral popularity.

“The fact that a junior backbencher from a marginal seat has come out and backed (Rudd) just goes to show the level of concern in Labor caucus about their prospects at the next election,” Dr Robinson said.

“Last year, Labor’s standing was really in the doldrums but they’ve made up some ground this year.”

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