Public man, private reality: Kevin Rudd upon his return to the prime ministership this year. Public man, private reality: Kevin Rudd upon his return to the prime ministership this year. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Here's some news for federal Labor: No one is interested in your boring, nasty bickering over whether or not Kevin Rudd is a bastard.
Is Rudd difficult to work with? You bet.
He can be chaotic. He can make staff and colleagues feel enormously frustrated.
But if Labor has learnt anything from losing power last month, it should be that voters have no interest in its tawdry internals.
Voters made clear that they expected politicians to behave like grown-ups, work together to sort out personal differences and get on with governing.
That's why it is disappointing that former attorney-general Nicola Roxon felt happy to attack Rudd in a speech in Melbourne on Wednesday night, labelling the former prime minister a bastard.
Even if Roxon is correct, which is highly contestable, her justification of Labor's decision to sack Rudd in 2010 is a bad sign for Labor supporters.
Despite having been thrown out of office, many Labor MPs still can't get it through their heads that they were wrong to have sacked Rudd in 2010.
How many elections do they need to lose before realise voters despise disunity?
Whether or not he was a bastard, Rudd's sacking was an affront to voters who, in 2007, elected him prime minister.
The sacking invited voters to conclude that factional bosses were running the show, not the man who led the party to power.
It also damaged Julia Gillard because her ascension via a coup was always going to make her seem to some people like an opportunist and a usurper.
To continue to justify the 2010 coup in the face of its clear outcomes, as Roxon did on Wednesday night, is to repudiate the judgment of voters.
It does nothing to help new Labor leader Bill Shorten, whose need to unite the party is complicated by the fact that he was one of the prime movers behind the dumping of both Rudd and Gillard.
In fact, Shorten's pedigree makes his election over former deputy PM Anthony Albanese a risk – one he will need to work hard to eliminate.
Roxon's speech ought to be the starting point for a frank assessment of Labor's failure in office between 2007 and 2010.
This failure should not be pinned on Rudd, Gillard or any other individual. It is a collective failure.
It belongs to an entire generation of Labor MPs whose inability to work together killed their once-in-a-career chance to deliver on their political principles.
It is time for Labor to mend its ways – not to deliver payback speeches or retrospectively justify decisions that history has shown were wrong.
Rudd, even if he was a bastard, should never have been sacked. His dumping entrenched the corrosive disunity that eventually cost Labor office.
Those intent on continuing to attack Rudd now need to ask themselves some serious questions.
Firstly, prior to the 2010 coup, did they ever challenge Rudd over his alleged dysfunction, either one-on-one or in cabinet?
I understand the only MPs with the ticker to speak up about process issues and the government's performance were Simon Crean and Kim Carr.
Secondly, if Rudd's critics believed his alleged dysfunction had paralysed the government, did they ever seek an outside mediator – some senior Labor figure - to bring the warring parties together for the good the their party?
Again, the answer is no.
Instead of behaving like grown-ups, the faction leaders torched their own administration and are still unable to admit their foolishness.
None of this means Rudd was blameless.
I have seen first-hand that he is a difficult person.
In July, after reporting on Rudd for two decades as a journalist, I agreed to work for him as a media adviser after Labor, realising Gillard could not win the election, returned him to the leadership to save the furniture.
Part of my motivation was to see for myself whether Rudd was as crazy and as mean as those who dumped him in 2010 had claimed.
He was never a bastard to me.
But yes, he could be chaotic.
Yes, he expected staff to work long hours – often on projects that never saw the light of day, causing immense frustration.
But I knew that before I signed up, just as Roxon, Gillard and others including former treasurer Wayne Swan knew when they elected him Labor leader in 2006 on the basis that he possessed the public popularity to lead them to power.
Buy the ticket, take the ride.
Kevin Rudd is not a bastard. He is a human being, just like Roxon, Shorten and all of us.
His idiosyncrasies do not outweigh his brilliance as a policy-maker and his undeniable ability to connect with voters – an ability that, in 2007, none of his colleagues could rival.
Tony Abbott made much during the recent election campaign about his view that voters wanted a government run by adults.
If Labor is smart, it will listen.
It's time to grow up or shut up.
Matthew Franklin is a former Canberra press gallery journalist and media adviser to Kevin Rudd.