How Australia’s unlikely kingmakers won it for Gillard

In a knife-edge race, the independent candidates have enjoyed their moment in the spotlight.

Australians are breathing a collective sigh of relief at finally having a government again, more than a fortnight on from the federal election. And more than a few will be rejoicing at their country's narrow escape from the clutches of the Coalition leader, Tony "Mad Monk" Abbott.

But you get the feeling that Australia's independent MPs -- Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter, a politician whose devotion to his rural Queensland constituency of Kennedy has been somewhat overshadowed by his passion for the Akubra hat -- have been quite enjoying their moment in the sun. In a race so tight that every vote counted, Oakeshott was the last of the three to declare which party he would back -- an announcement he managed to keep back right to the end of a 17-minute speech.

To be fair, the speech was a pretty good one: his points about a new paradigm for Australian politics and the importance of regional and rural education were worth making, and Oakeshott made them well. But he's been offered a role on PM Julia Gillard's front bench already; maybe he could have saved some of them for later?

Still, compared to Katter, Oakeshott has been a model of restraint throughout the election (you might describe Windsor as monk-like by comparison, if monks didn't signify frenzy in the Australian political context). Katter has been basking in the media glow like an elderly behatted guana, defending his past comments about "the poof population of North Queensland" (non-existent, apparently), calling for the protection of local bananas and sugar, and denying that he has been having fun in the spotlight over the past couple of weeks ("I'm used to power").

This election has rested on a knife edge and the minority government's margin of power couldn't be slimmer. Even so, Gillard might be just a little bit relieved that Katter didn't side with her team in the end.

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Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down if Labour loses the general election?

Defeat at the polls might not be the end of Corbyn’s leadership.

The latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Usually a general election loss would be the trigger for a leader to quit: Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband all stood down after their first defeat, although Neil Kinnock saw out two losses before resigning in 1992.

It’s possible, if unlikely, that Corbyn could become prime minister. If that prospect doesn’t materialise, however, the question is: will Corbyn follow the majority of his predecessors and resign, or will he hang on in office?

Will Corbyn stand down? The rules

There is no formal process for the parliamentary Labour party to oust its leader, as it discovered in the 2016 leadership challenge. Even after a majority of his MPs had voted no confidence in him, Corbyn stayed on, ultimately winning his second leadership contest after it was decided that the current leader should be automatically included on the ballot.

This year’s conference will vote on to reform the leadership selection process that would make it easier for a left-wing candidate to get on the ballot (nicknamed the “McDonnell amendment” by centrists): Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.

Will Corbyn stand down? The membership

Corbyn’s support in the membership is still strong. Without an equally compelling candidate to put before the party, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP are unlikely to initiate another leadership battle they’re likely to lose.

That said, a general election loss could change that. Polling from March suggests that half of Labour members wanted Corbyn to stand down either immediately or before the general election.

Will Corbyn stand down? The rumours

Sources close to Corbyn have said that he might not stand down, even if he leads Labour to a crushing defeat this June. They mention Kinnock’s survival after the 1987 general election as a precedent (although at the 1987 election, Labour did gain seats).

Will Corbyn stand down? The verdict

Given his struggles to manage his own MPs and the example of other leaders, it would be remarkable if Corbyn did not stand down should Labour lose the general election. However, staying on after a vote of no-confidence in 2016 was also remarkable, and the mooted changes to the leadership election process give him a reason to hold on until September in order to secure a left-wing succession.

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