Tearing down a leader and installing a new one is brutal.
“It leaves blood and bodies everywhere,” is the description from one Labor figure who has been tangled up in plenty of leadership struggles.
The death and gore is metaphorical but the emotional damage is palpable.
Careers are destroyed, friendships are shattered, and in many cases, trust is never restored.
It was too nasty for a man with decades of experience at the heart of the union movement.
Former Labor minister Greg Combet wrote that he was “fed up with the disloyalty and the disunity within the Labor caucus, the sheer ruthless bastardry” when he walked away from politics after the Rudd/Gillard turmoil.
Yet dumping a leader is being discussed again as Malcolm Turnbull crashes into his own Newspoll benchmark.
The only number that is being counted so far is 30, the total of Newspoll losses.
But the war-gaming and strategic leaking that is an essential element of the build-up to a leadership challenge is happening.
It could fizzle out, or more likely flare up sporadically, intensifying if 30 Newspoll losses turns to 35 or higher and Liberal MPs fear the trend means they are heading for joblessness.
It is that desperation that drives otherwise cagey politicians to embark on the ferocious leadership contests that voters bitterly resent.
Ipsos poll 50:50 result helps soothe re-election worries
Thirty Newspoll losses is simply an artificial gauge that Mr Turnbull set when he challenged Tony Abbott.
Today he faces his own test.
And the exam conditions will be extreme — with journalists, observers and politicians scrutinising the PM’s handling of his self-made dilemma.
There are no signs that today’s embarrassment will be enough to flush out a leadership contender.
But it is an opportunity for Mr Abbott to express his grievance that the party took the leadership from him in 2015 and gave it to Mr Turnbull.
It will be a tough day, although the remedy for one poll problem has partly come with a different poll, which has a methodology showing the Coalition and Labor locked together at 50:50.
The Fairfax Ipsos poll, released on Saturday, does not solve the problem that Mr Turnbull specifically cited Newspoll, but it helps to soothe some of the Coalition fretfulness about the Government’s election prospects.
That Ipsos poll, which reached the 50:50 result after asking people who they would give their second preference votes to, also resolves one of the questions that has been infuriating some inside the Government.
They hint that their research shows the ALP is not as far ahead as Newspoll has been reporting and the weekend’s Fairfax Ipsos result endorses that.
Could the ‘political killing season’ come again soon?
While no-one expects a challenger to front Mr Turnbull today citing the Newspoll test, the signs of leadership tension are already apparent.
Unnamed sources have set August as the next test for the Prime Minister.
That is a classic from the leadership instability handbook, where anonymous figures insist that “he has to turn things around by Christmas or the political killing season will be on again”.
The flaw in that approach, at the moment, is the lack of a strong contender.
“Politics abhors a vacuum — if they are going to lose under Malcolm then they will replace him”, is the cynical view from a Labor observer.
But that does not always follow.
Liberal deputy Peter Costello was the potential contender who never launched a strike against John Howard.
The fall-out from that decision is still being debated more than a decade later — with unanswerable questions tossed around about whether Mr Costello replacing Mr Howard would have negated Kevin Rudd’s move against Kim Beazley in December 2006.
“We would have won the 2007 election if he had the balls to challenge” is the sort of line still being rolled out from time to time.
30 Newspoll mark unlikely to prove fatal for Turnbull
In fact, the hypothetical game forms an entire chapter of that leadership playbook, with those in the most marginal seats told they will lose their seats unless there is a switch.
But of course, despite the sophisticated political research techniques behind some of those claims, there is no way they can ever be proved.
The former PM, Mr Abbott, can never know if he would have done better than Mr Turnbull in the 2016 election that the Coalition won so narrowly.
Mr Abbott is angry and still around to remind his colleagues about the wrong that he believes was done to him.
It is a divorce where both partners stay in the house and glare at each other over the breakfast cereal.
The 30 Newspoll mark that helped end Mr Abbott’s leadership appears unlikely to prove fatal for his successor.
But some Liberals are thumbing through the pages of the Guide to Leadership Challenges — just in case.
Others will be watching for signs of increased activity — observing who is drinking or dining with who at Kingston restaurants or who is popping up more frequently than usual in media interviews.