Postcript to the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
The political careers of Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt were over before they mounted their cack-handed and abortive coup. Now they're history. But their coup-that-never-was will have one lasting legacy between now and the election: the incredibly grudging, half-hearted endorsements of Gordon Brown from his Cabinet.
I won't repeat the quotes here -- you've probably seen them all already -- but there were all variations on the theme of "I'm just getting on with the job" and "I like Geoff and Patricia but don't agree with them" or "it's not really a problem."
The closest we got to a ringing endorsement in terms of "Gordon's doing a great job and is the best man to lead us into the next election" was from Ed Balls -- and when the PM can't get it from him then he really will be finished.
The Cabinet's delayed and lukewarm support for Mr Brown in the face of the attempted Hoon-Hewitt coup will be its lasting legacy -- and the Tories will almost certainly exploit it by claiming that if even the Cabinet doesn't really want the PM, why should you, the voter. That will put the pressure on Cabinet ministers to become more enthusiastic about their leader. We should be in for some interesting performances.
On a different note, let me bring you one piece of good news. The economy: the latest monthly purchasing managers' index's strong reading shows the service sector expanding at a decent rate again. That means that the overall economy must have grown in the fourth quarter and that the recession ended. What happens now is another matter -- the current quarter could well be weak, which would cause Mr Brown's re-election strategy some problems.
But for now we can safely say that, technically, the worst recession in living memory ended in the fourth quarter of 2009. That doesn't mean, of course, that in the real world people will still be hurt.