At Westminster, the Blair camp famously labelled Gordon Brown “psychologically flawed”, a phrase that amplified long-standing suspicions about the chancellor’s vindictiveness. In Canberra, the Gillard team adopted a similar line of attack, complaining that the ousted prime minister was by temperament incapable of doing the job. Swan himself fired the first salvo, issuing a written statement that blasted Rudd’s “dysfunctional decision-making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including our caucus colleagues”. Then came Nicola Roxon, who complained of his “ludicrous” management style, Tony Burke, who bemoaned the “chaos” under his leadership, Stephen Conroy, who spoke of Rudd’s “contempt” for colleagues and, finally, Kate Ellis.
Senator Doug Cameron, a Rudd ally, had been warned by left-wing union friends in Scotland to be wary of McTernan, a staunch ‘Blairite’ on the right of the British Labour party. He was shocked that the attacks were so personal. “I don’t think there’s been anything like this in the history of the Labor party,” says Cameron. “It was stupid and undeserved. Politics is a tough game and you need tough people. But you also need smart people.” Others in the Rudd camp argue it was suicidal to trash a Labor politician who might one day return as leader – what they have called the “destroy the village to save the village” strategy. Still, it worked, at least in the short term.