JULIA GILLARD is under growing pressure to call a leadership ballot, with the warring parties believing a showdown is inevitable when Parliament resumes next week.
The Prime Minister was holding out last night against such advice, confident she had the numbers and telling confidants that if Kevin Rudd wanted her job, he would have to gather the 35 signatures necessary for a spill and seize it. ''We're not driving any of this,'' said a source close to Ms Gillard. ''It's not for her to pull the gun out.''
But with a civil war raging, other Gillard supporters are urging her to expose what they believe is Mr Rudd's lack of majority support in the caucus of 103 and call a ballot this week for next Monday or Tuesday.
Rudd supporters are reluctant to force the issue, saying he does not want to be seen as the aggressor. Yesterday they argued that Mr Rudd was prepared to wait out Ms Gillard because momentum for change was building all the time and eventually she would fall without him having to lift a finger.
''It's in Gillard's interest to bring it on early and Rudd's to let it go on as long as possible,'' a Rudd backer said.
Another was confident Mr Rudd would have the numbers by next week. ''I'm no longer worried about that,'' he said about the prospect of a ballot then.
While neither side says it is prepared to call a spill, both acknowledge the situation must be resolved when Parliament resumes.
The Herald has learnt that Mr Rudd has not ruled out offering the Treasury to his arch-enemy and key Gillard backer Bill Shorten if that is what it takes to swing the votes and receive the blessing of the powerful Australian Workers Union.
A senior Rudd source said neither Mr Shorten nor the union had made any approach and none had been made to Mr Shorten or the union.
Treasury has already been earmarked for Chris Bowen but it is understood he could accept another senior position to facilitate change.
Mr Rudd has said he will not engage in payback for his overthrow and that he will promote talented people. Therefore Mr Shorten should be considered.
The leadership situation erupted on the weekend, when a Victorian MP, Darren Cheeseman, told the Sunday papers Ms Gillard should quit.
And on Saturday night a video was posted YouTube showing Mr Rudd losing his temper and swearing two years ago, when he was prime minister.
Mr Rudd, who went overseas yesterday for a week, conducted a Sky News interview at midnight on Saturday to explain his actions. In it he subtly accused Ms Gillard's office or department of leaking the footage, and launched his pitch for the leadership by telling people he had changed his workaholic and overbearing ways.
''I've certainly reflected a lot on the last several years and you'd be a mug if you didn't learn anything from the past,'' he said. He suggested the video footage was either held in the Prime Minister's office or by her department.
Ms Gillard said such assertions were ''completely untrue''. She said her office did not have access to the footage and whoever posted it on YouTube had ''acted inappropriately''.
A Gillard adviser said the head of her department had been asked to do security checks to find the source of the leak.
The Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, implied that Mr Rudd had leaked the footage because he would have had access to it.
Rudd supporters said the leak was just another clumsy act by the Gillard camp that backfired. ''All it did was provide him an opportunity to tell people that he has changed,'' a Rudd supporter said.
A Gillard supporter said Mr Rudd had a solid 26 votes, Ms Gillard had 60 and there were 17 undecided.
A Rudd number-cruncher said the Foreign Affairs Minister had between 30 and 40 ''solid'' votes.
The independent MP Andrew Wilkie exposed claims by Mr Rudd and his followers that he had not been agitating for the leadership. Mr Wilkie said he had met Mr Rudd for 90 minutes in his office in November.
''We talked about a range of things, including the possibility of him coming back to the prime ministership,'' he said. Mr Wilkie remained open to supporting Mr Rudd in a minority government.
As cabinet ministers Dr Emerson, Tanya Plibersek and Peter Garrett pledged their support for Ms Gillard, backbenchers engaged in public squabbling.
The Victorian MP Steve Gibbons labelled Mr Rudd a ''psychopath with a giant ego'' for thinking he could come back, and the Queensland backbencher Bernie Ripoll said the Rudd camp did not have the numbers.
The events overshadowed the official launch of the Queensland election campaign, which infuriated the Labor Premier, Anna Bligh.
Federal cabinet will meet today. Mr Rudd is due back in Australia on Sunday.
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