The last federal ALP leader capable of winning an election AND governing a country was Paul Keating.
Even Keating was a poor second to Bob Hawke who was (IMO) the best PM since the second world war.
Hawke was a genuine policy innovator and a brilliant campaigner - it's a rare combination in politics.
After 1996, Beazley and Crean basically wasted the ALP's time for a decade.
Beazley and Crean rejected the Hawke and Keating legacy because they didn't understand it.
They were two of the least impressive Cabinet ministers during the Hawke-Keating era.
They turned away from the Hawke-Keating direction for a modern ALP without coming up with anything to replace it.
To get out of the Beazley-Crean deadend, the ALP opted for Latham.
Latham was supposedly the new man, the new direction.
From Sydney's western suburbs with an alleged connection to the region's 'aspirational' voters, he was in-touch with the party's evolving base.
So it was hoped.
Latham took the ALP backwards at the 2004 election.
Howard blew him out of the water with the line 'who do you trust on interest rates' - goodbye aspirationals.
(BTW some people in the ALP still think Latham was actually in with a chance of winning that election).
The ALP's massive defeat in 2004 (it delivered control of the Senate to the LNP for the first time since the 1970s) showed that Howard's Liberals understood the ALP heartland better than Labor's isolated leadership elite.
After Latham underwent his post-election meltdown, the federal ALP caucus went back to the safe hands of Beazley.
Beazley offered a version of old-style labourism.
But two years later, with the election looming the party lost confidence in Beazley's ability to actually win an election.
Despite a decade of frantic self-promotion, Rudd had only single-digit support, or a little more, in caucus.
Rudd is a major league narcisisst in an occupation that attracts a lot of them.
His efforts to appeal to the public over the heads of his colleagues did not endear him to them.
Gillard, a left-winger despite her views, didn't have quite enough support to win the leadership.
GIllard did have substantial union support (anachronistically important in the ALP) and Rudd had virtually none.
So an inherently unstable 'team' of Rudd and Gillard was formed.
Adding to this instability, Rudd locked himself into keeping Swan on as Treasurer, following a few media questions in the run-up to the 2007 election.
This is probably one of the worst political decisions Rudd ever made.
Swan's performance as Treasurer has dragged down both the Rudd and Gillard governments.
Swan has little to show in the sense of reform achievements and his political incompetence and inability to shape agendas and win public debates has been a real (and continuing) drag on the ALP.
Things seemed OK in the heady atmosphere of a big election win and a long-desired return to the Treasury benches.
But the hatreds were still there.
Swan and Rudd have loathed each other for many years.
Gillard's ambitions only grew.
Rudd proved to be hopeless at running a government.
The PM's office and the Cabinet were badly dysfunctional.
Rudd was still not liked in the caucus, in fact his disdain for many of his colleagues (and their union patrons) only heightened their sense of being excluded from 'their' government.
Perhaps inevitably, the hatred, the instability and the incompetence proved explosive - to the detriment of Rudd and the ALP.
Despite her ambition, Gillard has been a lacklustre PM.
She has had some policy wins, but many disasters as well.
She has not 'solved' the asylum seeker issue.
Her carbon tax betrayal has blighted her prime ministership, as has the (backroom) way she became PM.
The next leader after Rudd and Gillard depart will probably be Bill Shorten.
Shorten's performance has so far been modest at best.
The bigger issue is why there aren't more potential leaders in the federal caucus.
After the election, the ALP will have to think about getting a much better talent pool in the federal caucus.
Otherwise the long term leadership problem will just go on.