ALP is stuffed, even in Victoria, Gillard is only just holding on

The ALP is going down hard, NSW is lost, the rolling maul of corruption scandals has killed them off, now Victoria is lost to them.

Leadership challenges are still brewing and not just from Kevin Rudd.

It is a measure of the Labor Party’s current desperation that a single minister, Bill Shorten, has emerged as an emblematic figure supposedly invested with almost super powers.

If Shorten shifts his support from Julia Gillard, as the headlines and the barely muted whispers go, then her grasp on the prime ministerial chair will be gone.

It is as if he is being considered a latter-day Senator Graham Richardson, the old powerbroker from the Hawke era who is credited with orchestrating much of the unpleasantness that ended in Paul Keating wresting power from Hawke in 1991.

The differences between Richardson and Shorten, in fact – like those between Hawke and Gillard; Keating and Rudd – could hardly be starker.

Shorten may have been the most high-profile of the so-called “faceless men” who engineered the end of Kevin Rudd’s prime ministership in 2010, but unlike Richardson, he is burdened with his own ambitions for becoming a future Labor leader.

…?He has spent the past three years pledging his support for Ms Gillard, the prime minister he helped make, and he is still publicly pledging it.

To now reverse his position in aid of a Rudd return might stamp him indelibly as a ruthless turncoat – hardly handy on the CV of a man with a view to leadership himself.

Labor is looking for a lifeboat, they are all casting around for anything and anyone to cling to. The polling is dire, they know they are rooted.

An almost bearable resignation had settled across the party for many months about its loss of support in NSW – a basket case for numerous reasons, not least the rottenness within its state machine – and Queensland, where Labor voters had never forgiven the party for tossing aside one of their own, Kevin Rudd, for a southerner, Julia Gillard.

Labor MPs and the union movement knew it was serious – and in Western Australia, too – but they had little idea of the scale of the catastrophe down south until internal polling and research undertaken by the ACTU in Victoria began returning figures in the past couple of weeks that flabbergasted the most hardened.

The definition of a marginal seat had to be re-written. Electorates on what might normally be considered comfortable margins of 8-10 per cent were suddenly facing wipe-outs, according to those professing to be in the know. There was barely a Labor seat in outer-metropolitan Melbourne or an industrial or migrant-dominated area that the ALP could be sure of holding.

More polling showed South Australia had joined the rush, with the likelihood of the ALP losing almost two thirds of its 11 seats.

Victoria and South Australia were supposed to be relatively reliable Labor strongholds.

Further south, all Tasmania’s five seats were considered in great jeopardy.