He announced late tonight he would put his leadership to the vote in caucus tomorrow at 9am. He said the vote came after a request from his deputy, Julia Gillard.
Ms Gillard has growing support among the caucus of 115 MPs and senators and an increasing number of factions.
These included the National Right, the Victorian Left and most of the NSW Right, including its kingmaker Mark Arbib.
Tomorrow’s vote came after a dramatic night of meetings between party heavyweights. Right-wing powerbrokers spent the day counting numbers in an effort to encourage Ms Gillard to run.
She met with Mr Rudd last night but her office said it was just a routine scheduled meeting, the third between the pair yesterday. But the meeting was joined by senior ministers, including Anthony Albanese, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner.
It was understood Ms Gillard was reluctant to have a messy challenge and it is understood there were efforts being made to push Mr Rudd to stand down.
The push to oust Mr Rudd was led by the Victorian senator David Feeney, the Victorian MP Bill Shorten, and the South Australian senator Don Farrell, all right-wing heavyweights.
Sources said they met Ms Gillard yesterday afternoon in an attempt to persuade her to run.
Labour Ms Gillard has repeatedly rejected any suggestion she will try and oust Mr Rudd. Senator John Faulkner who denied any knowledge of the party’s right canvassing party members for numbers on ABC Television earlier joined Treasurer Wayne Swan, frontbencher Anthony Albanese in the prime minister’s office.
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With Treasurer Wayne Swan in March 2010. Photo: Glen McCurtayne
Trade Minister Simon Crean has backed Mr Rudd, saying he wasn’t aware of any leadership challenge.
“I do not support any leadership challenge,” Mr Crean said.
“Any loose talk or idle speculation on this matter is counterproductive.
“I urge solidarity behind the leader. I support Kevin as the Leader.”
Nine News reported that NSW senator Mark Arbib, Victorian senator David Feeney and parliamentary secretary Bill Shorten told Ms Gillard earlier on Wednesday they’d lost confidence in Mr Rudd and wanted her to run.
She gave no answer.
Tomorrow would be the last day for the rebels to mount a challenge because Parliament will rise for the eight-week winter break and many expected Mr Rudd to call an election before the Parliament returned.
Mounting a leadership challenge is much more difficult when the house is not sitting because all the MPs and senators have to be recalled.
A series of policy failures, poor polls and the decision to go to war with the mining industry have all contributed to Mr Rudd’s plunging fortunes among his colleagues.
The Coalition fears a change to Ms Gillard. Although she bears responsibility for many of the government’s poor decisions, including shelving the emissions trading scheme and the controversial school buildings program, she would be harder to beat than Mr Rudd.
An Essential Media poll released this week showed that both she and Mr Rudd, however, were preferred ahead of Mr Abbott as prime minister by about the same proportion of voters