Labor's women shine

The Labor Party has a new hero – and it's not Kevin Rudd.

It's Maxine McKew.

ALP power broker Robert Ray enthused on the Nine Network that McKew had not only taken on the Prime Minister in his own seat, but had done so in the knowledge that she could have demanded a safe seat.

"Labor will owe her for the rest of her life," he said.

An extroardinary endorsement based on the very real prospect that she will win the seat no matter whether postal votes heavily favour John Howard.

Wayne Swan, the country's new treasurer, said that when McKew put her hand up for Bennelong, "Maxine gave everyone in the Labor Party hope."

Indeed, the story of the night may well be that it is the turn of women to shine.

The new deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard, was given constant raptuous receptions by the party faithful in a noisy tally room in Canberra.

There is little doubt she will be the inspiring figure within party ranks. She will be the conscience and the backbone. Kevin Rudd's appeal is tempered within the party because of his conservative, cautious stances on so many issues. He will be seen as the leader they had to have to beat John Howard. But Gillard will be the light on the hill.

The din in the tally room irritated the ABC's panel, but it reflected what has pre-occupied Labor supporters for so long. They just wanted to see the back of John Howard.

Whenever figures were read out that demonstrated McKew winning Bennelong, the cheers were far more enthusiastic than any declaration that the Coalition had lost overall.

The story then for the Liberals is that they – and John Howard – should never have given them that satisfaction.

Hindsight is a great thing, but Howard should have moved on a year ago and not allowed the campaign to be crippled by his history.

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