WHEN infighting spills into the public arena, it is a clear symptom of a party in deep trouble.
Dissatisfaction with Premier Lara Giddings's handling of the relationship with the Greens and, in particular, her refusal to rule out doing another deal with the "job destroyers" has been building for months.
Some Labor heavyweights ramped up the pressure this week, agreeing to go public with their concerns, although they preferred to remain anonymous.
This allowed them to be refreshingly open about the party's immediate fate.
"We're in more trouble than the first settlers," one source put it.
They have little hope of avoiding annihilation at the polls in March.
The party insiders' frank assessment of Labor's fortunes is in stark contrast to the relatively rosy picture the Premier paints.
She has repeatedly stated she is campaigning for majority Labor government.
Never mind that prospect is mere fantasy to most involved or observing politics.
The issue raises an interesting question: how should a leader preparing to lead her troops to all- but certain crushing defeat behave?
To acknowledge the scale of the challenge publicly would be tantamount to throwing in the towel and dispiriting for the membership.
But to ignore all the signs - disastrous federal results, feedback from your own fed-up party members, poor state polling - makes her simply unbelievable.
It is a tricky balancing act. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd's strategy of playing the underdog card was one way to put a upbeat spin on a dire position.
Unless Ms Giddings is prepared to heed the membership's call for a complete about-face on minority government, it won't matter how carefully she chooses her words. The only message the rank and file want to hear is "never again" when it comes to entering into a power- sharing deal with the Greens.
Given Ms Giddings's absolute refusal to change her mind and be accused of backflipping, they are doubtful of getting what they want.
Instead, they predict drifting along to the election and getting smashed.
The Premier was forced to acknowledge on Thursday that there were internal rumblings which she described as distractions that risked knocking them off "the pathway we're on towards majority Labor government".
Going even further, she accused her critics of helping the enemy, the Liberal Party, to gain power.
Who is she kidding? That pathway she speaks of is more like a gruelling hiking trek with no end point in sight yet.
Worse still, many in the party, ranging from the rank and file to powerful backers, don't even believe their leaders are taking them in the right direction right now.
That's why the union movement and traditional supporters are not prepared to fall into line.
It's not the first time that Ms Giddings has faced the wrath of her own party.
It is not so long ago that she received a cold reception at the ALP state conference.
But she was not put off then and has determinedly implemented unpopular budget cuts and headed off a near leadership challenge during her three years at the helm.
While she has survived so far, winning respect along the way for her determination, and the rocky relationship with the unions looking to be on the mend, the next five months will be the hardest yet.
Ms Giddings is right when she says internal warfare over strategy is unhelpful and aids the opposition.
But that doesn't mean the critics within the party who are calling for a permanent split, rather than a phoney pre-election divorce, are wrong.
Changing tack at this late stage is unlikely to be enough to salvage victory in March.
However, it seems the only way to re-engage disaffected supporters and build all-important momentum on that long trek back to power.