The responses by the twenty ministers who have so far lined up behind Ms Gillard have been quite remarkable. Here are two examples:
The Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, said ''You can't run … Australia and protect its national security interests and … economic security interests by every day running off what's on the front page of a newspaper or what you might want to do on TV.''
The Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said government under Kevin Rudd ''became chaotic … the micro-management where no one other than the prime minister could make a decision … Kevin as leader became someone who … became increasingly impossible to work with and as a government we simply weren't delivering the way we should have been able to.''
Mr Rudd's strategy appears to be to take his campaign to the public, his opponents to crush him once and for all. It's all very messy if quite interesting political theatre. While leadership challenges to incumbent PMs or premiers are not uncommon in Australian political history, I am struggling to think of one played out so openly and so, dare I say it?, presidentially.