Our say | From supporting villain to the leading man

AUSTRALIA’S favourite political mini-series – Knife The Leader – could be back for another series.

And given the star-studded cast lining up for a spot in this year’s production, it might be the best show yet.

For a start, it’s a gaggle of Labor MPs holding all the knives, and they are the past masters of the genre.

From Rudd to Gillard and back again, Labor perfected the art of the knifing in all its gruesome and bewildering glory, delighting and disgusting the viewing public in equal parts.

And in an intriguing twist leading into the new series, the lead supporting actor in those productions has been elevated to a leading role this time round.

Bill Shorten was one of the key plotters behind the plan to remove Kevin Rudd as prime minister in 2010 and his decision to switch his support back to Rudd in 2013 was a decisive blows to Gillard’s leadership.

Now speculation is mounting that Shorten could soon find himself on the other end of the knife following continued lacklustre polling as opposition leader.

The popular Anthony Albanese is emerging as the man most likely should a leadership spill take place and it’s hard to see Shorten defeating him a second time.

Albanese’s popularity is not confined to his electorate, and it is a source of lingering pressure for Shorten, who narrowly defeated the Member for Grayndler for the Labor leadership in 2013.

Albanese, the Left faction’s candidate, won 60 per cent of the popular ballot, but equal weight was given to the caucus vote, of which Shorten won 64 per cent.

Government MPs still call Albanese “People’s Choice” when he stands up in Parliament. Albanese never fails to smile when they do.

Since that 2013 ballot, Shorten has failed to capture the public’s admiration. He is the most unpopular opposition leader since Newspoll records began in 1985.

And while they are both career politicians and Labor apparatchiks, Albanese has a more natural rapport with the public and is the more natural media performer.

He has a warmth that Shorten struggles to match and Labor supporters have watched on despairingly as Shorten has consistently trailed Malcolm Turnbull as preferred leader even as Labor has consistently been the preferred party. 

Grab the popcorn. This going to get interesting.