Julia Gillard tells of pain of losing power

Julia Gillard: pain hit 'like a fist'. Picture: Getty
Julia Gillard: pain hit 'like a fist'. Picture: Getty
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AUSTRALIA’S former prime minister Julia Gillard has ­revealed the “acute distress” she felt after being dumped as leader of the Labor Party in June.

“Losing power can bring forth a pain that hits you like a fist,” she wrote.

The country’s first female prime minister was ousted by rival Kevin Rudd amid dismal polling figures. But Rudd lost last Saturday’s 
general election to conservative leader Tony Abbott.

Labor faces a new leadership contest after Rudd announced he would resign from his party role. Gillard revealed she watched the election results on her own.

“I wanted it that way. I wanted to just let myself be swept up in it,” she wrote in a newspaper article.

The leadership battle in June was the second that ­Gillard had faced since ­taking office in 2010. She ousted Rudd as prime minister that year.

She said the switch just weeks before the election had sent Australians a “very cynical and shallow message” about Labor’s purpose.

“The decision was not done because caucus now 
believed Kevin Rudd had the greater talent for governing,” she wrote. “Labor unambiguously sent a very clear message that it cared about nothing other than the prospects of survival of its members of parliament at the polls.

“There was not one truly original new idea to substitute as the lifeblood of the campaign.”

After her defeat, Gillard declared she would be leaving politics for good.

“Losing power is felt ­physically, emotionally, in waves of sensation, in ­moments of acute distress,” she said of that moment.

“You can feel you are fine but then suddenly someone’s words of comfort, or finding a memento at the back of the cupboard as you pack up, or even cracking jokes about old times, can bring forth a pain that hits you like a fist, pain so strong you feel it in your guts, your nerve endings.”

Gillard said she had experienced “odd moments of 
relief” since quitting, “as the hard weight that felt like it was sitting uncomfortably between your shoulder blades slips off”.

But she admitted that she was still “grieving” over the end of her political career.

“Late at night or at quiet moments in the day feelings of regret, memories that make you shine with pride, 
a sense of being unfulfilled can overwhelm you. Hours slip by.”