“He could woo the electorate and she could pull the caucus in behind him ... Together they were indomitable, but apart they were vulnerable: he to the faction leaders and she to public opinion,” Hawker wrote.
Ultimately they each succumbed to that weakness and retired from the political stage.
In the end, Rudd returned with just a few months until he would have to call this year’s election and, once again frantic to make change, brought in rule changes to ensure factional leaders could never again treat a Labor leader as they had once treated him and policy changes on asylum and carbon pricing to try to stem Labor’s electoral losses.
He believes he “saved” Labor from a potentially worse defeat. He insisted he was retiring bearing malice to no one.
In his resignation speech Rudd said he would be working on an array of issues, including Indigenous recognition, organ donation, homelessness and foreign language learning. He intends to spend more time with his wife, Therese Rein, who runs a successful employment services company, and their three children and toddler granddaughter.
The speeches that followed his shock announcement — from all sides of the chamber — indicated that it may now be possible to see through the malice between the two leaders to assess the policy successes, and failures, of Labor’s term in office over which they presided.