And you thought a week was a long time in politics. Two hours after the first intimations of action, Kevin Rudd has announced he will face a leadership challenge from Julia Gillard at 9am tomorrow. Speaking at his press conference, Rudd invoked indigenous issues, the mining tax, pensions and climate change in a clear pitch to the party’s left, whom he called on to stand tough against the machinations of the Right faction heavies who have brought the situation to a head.

For my money, if the party room’s electoral prospects are what matters to it, there is little choice for it but to back Gillard. The warlords have moved against Rudd because they are brutally aware that it is he who is dragging them down in the polls and threatening their re-election prospects. In his absence, the government will be able to modify damaging policies as Rudd could not afford to, for fear of being called out over another “backflip”. Labor would also enter the election with a credible and certain story to tell about the next three years, the lack of which defeated Howard more than any single factor with only the possible exception of WorkChoices. Then there’s the feel-good factor of our first woman prime minister, which most voters recognise as overdue. Finally, I suggest that Glenn Milne’s thoughts last week on the dynamics of a Gillard-Abbott election battle would end up looking highly prescient after the event.

Over to you.

UPDATE: And with what great timing, we get the long-awaited quarterly cumulative Newspoll. This combines polls five from April to June, which successively had Labor’s party vote at 54, 49, 50, 51 and 52, allowing state and demographic results to be provided from a reasonable sample size. The state breakdowns show a surprisingly mild move against Labor in Western Australia, from 51-49 behind in January-March to 53-47 in April-June. While Labor has crashed seven points on the primary vote to 31 per cent, the dividend has gone entirely to Greens and “others”. If the result was uniform, Labor would hold its own on those numbers. The only other state with Labor trailing is Queensland, where Labor fell from 51-49 ahead to 52-48 behind. New South Wales and Victoria recorded little change with Labor leading 52-48 and 56-44, while their lead in South Australia dived from 55-45 to 51-49.

There was little sign of recent turmoil among voters over 50, among whom the Labor vote held steady on 37 per cent. It was a case of other age groups falling to that level: Labor fell five points to 39 per cent among 18-34s, and seven to 36 per cent and 35-49s. The Coalition primary vote was up three points among men to 43 per cent but steady on 39 per cent among women, who have instead sent votes lost to Labor to the Greens and others.

UPDATE 2 (Thursday morning): Not sure how much it’s worth now, but The Advertiser ran a poll this morning of 530 voters from the seat of Adelaide, where Labor holds a margin of 8.5 per cent but has been said to be in trouble. The poll doesn’t entirely bear this out: Labor’s primary vote was down 7 per cent from the election to 41 per cent, but the Liberals are also down from 37 per cent to 35 per cent – suggesting the undecided had not been distributed – and most of the dividend went to the Greens, up 6 per cent to 16 per cent. In two-party terms, Labor retained a handsome 57-43 lead.

UPDATE 3 (Thursday afternoon): Comments thread talk tells us Galaxy are in the field, suggesting we can expect the first poll of the new era either in the Sunday News Limited tabloids.

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