It now appears that Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, or 'Dim and Dumb' as one newspaper has called them, thought that up to six Cabinet ministers would come out to support their attempt to unseat Gordon Brown: Plot
Quite why they thought cabinet ministers would be willing to put their heads up the parapet when they haven't in the past is unclear, particularly given that Geoff Hoon is a former Chief Whip and should understand the parliamentary party. Perhaps the person who posted in response to an editorial in The Guardian had a point: 'I'd alway's thought Hoon was a "bit" dim, but after his appearance on Newsnight tonight I'd have to upgrade that to "thick as two short planks", qualified with "mind bogglingly naive".'
There are quite a few losers from this failed attempt. Gordon Brown had David Cameron on the back foot in PMQs yesterday, but now Labour once again can be presented as a divided party that is more interested in internal in fighting than the many problems that face the country. One of the problems is that Gordon is clearly in a state of denial over public expenditure cuts, thinking that a growth miracle that no one else believes in can stave them off or at least reduce their impact.
As Trevor Kavanagh of the Sun - one of our best political correspondents - pointed out on Radio 5 this morning David Miliband comes out of this badly. His endorsement of the prime minister, PSA prize winner Kavanagh pointed out, amounted to saying 'I am in the government as foreign secretary and working on my boxes.' Once again he has shown himself unable to wield the knife, something that has already finished off the hopes of fading star Alan Johnson. Of course, the problem is that if you wield the knife you may debar yourself from the prize, Michael Heseltine being the prime example.
Increasingly this looks like an exhausted government that has run out of ideas and has lost the collective will to live. The risk for Labour is that whoever becomes Leader of the Opposition may inherit a shattered and divided party. Even Harriet Harman with her aristocratic iciness and her trade union credentials might find that a poisoned chalice.