Sydney: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard set about rebuilding her Labour party’s tainted image on Friday after a botched leadership coup as a slew of ministers who supported rival Kevin Rudd quit.

Gillard is facing an uphill battle as she attempts to claw back credibility following an internal political drama that dealt a huge blow to her already slim prospects heading into a September national election.

The country’s first female leader called a shock vote for the party leadership on Thursday after senior minister Simon Crean openly urged a ballot to end rampant speculation that he said was “killing" Labour.

She was re-elected unopposed after former leader Rudd, who Gillard ruthlessly ousted in mid-2010, realised he did not have the numbers required and opted out just minutes before the vote was held.

Rudd on Friday ruled out the prospect of ever being Labour leader again and said Gillard “has my 100% support".

“I don’t think it’s worth raking over the coals. What’s done is done. Let’s look to the future," he said, confirming that he did not challenge after being advised there was “zero" chance of being able to topple her.

Eight politicians who sided with him have been sacked or resigned, with Gillard facing a tricky cabinet reshuffle just six months out from national elections.

The highest-profile casualties, resources minister Martin Ferguson, Tertiary education minister Chris Bowen and human services minister Kim Carr, fell on their swords Friday.

Crean was fired in the aftermath of the farcical day of political games on Thursday.

With the conservative opposition vowing to put a motion of no confidence in the government at the next sitting of parliament on 14 May to try to force early polls, Gillard took to the airwaves in an attempt to calm nerves.

She said the message from the failed ballot was that the leadership issue was “over, it’s clearly over".

“There was an opportunity, the opportunity wasn’t used," she told national radio.

“I think political watchers will know that for some period of time there’s been an undercurrent in our party and it was dealt with yesterday and brought to an end."

The most recent polls showed Labour would be crushed by the conservative opposition led by Tony Abbott if an election was held now, and that it stood a much better chance of victory under Rudd.

While Gillard scored a tactical victory, Australian media said the bitter in-fighting was a disaster for a party which has drawn flak for weak leadership and policy U-turns that have seen the premier dubbed “Ju-liar".

“They look like Keystone Cops and the real test is still to come," The Sydney Morning Herald said, referring to the 14 September election.

Australia’s Daily Telegraph was more brutal, screaming: “Chicken Kev does his dash with Gillard leading Labour into oblivion", while a more measured Australian Financial Review noted: “Everyone’s bloodied in this train wreck".

Despite being fired, the man who instigated the ballot, Crean, said he achieved his objective of halting destabilisation of the party.

“It’s not a mess if it provides the basis for a regeneration," he said. “We have got a united party at the leadership level. It has been a circuit breaker."

But Nick Economou, a political analyst at Monash University, said it was looking bleak for Labour.

“It has been clear for a long time that there is probably very little chance of Labour winning the next federal election," he said.

“Their credibility is non-existent in the eyes of the population and they are on their way to an absolute hiding."