Yet another "plot" to unseat Gordon Brown before the Labour Party's date with destiny at the next general election appears to have fizzled out before even getting started. It is not hard to see why. Despite his obvious failings, both personal and political, Gordon Brown does not actually have an obvious rival. After 10 years as heir apparent to Tony Blair, Brown was elected as leader by the Labour Party unopposed.
One can argue whether the coronation of Mr. Brown ought not to have been contested, but in the end not one individual was even prepared to act as a stalking horse candidate against him. There was not even a facsimile contest. Mr. Brown's reputation for unforgiving, volcanic anger and a Stalinist devotion to destroying his enemies seems to have persuaded his colleagues that discretion was the better part of valour. The fact is that no figure has emerged who is prepared to challenge directly the failing and faltering leadership of Mr. Brown. Only Charles Clarke ploughs his solitary furrow of opposition, but he is a powerless and marginalised figure.
The failure of Hoon and Hewitt is not that they have no support- even inside the cabinet there is considerable sympathy for the idea of removing Mr. Brown- it is that they have not identified a single credible alternative who is prepared to challenge Mr. Brown directly. The various candidates said to be in the frame, from Jack Straw to David Milliband appear to be calculating that they can simply inherit the leadership of the party after an election defeat.
It is a collective failure of nerve that could be very dangerous for the Labour Party. It is clear that Mr. Brown is not temperamentally suited to being Prime Minister, yet there is no one, no one at all in the cabinet who is prepared to say so publicly and then to do something about it.
The consequences could be a spectacular, rather than a merely heavy, defeat. Labour flirted with annihilation in 1983, because they would not axe Michael Foot. Can it be that Labour are going to make the same mistake twice. With the lowest polls for Labour at only 23%- behind the Liberal Democrats- might it be that this failure of nerve in the cabinet brings truly epochal changes to British Politics- including the eclipse of Labour as a governing party?
"Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad"