Labour's coup: Non-events, dear boy, non-events!
Like Marshal Grouchy, whose failure to turn up at Waterloo decided 100 years of European history, sometimes the non-arrival of things can be just as decisive as their arrival.
Harold Macmillan once said it was "events, dear boy, events" that blow governments off course, but non-events matter too. Those commentators who believe there's nothing really political at stake in Labour's current internal struggle I think are missing something.
There are in reality three "poles" of political opinion within Labour: There's the Blairite old-guard centre-right, which most decisively shot its bolt yesterday; there's the government - an alliance of Blairites for Brown and Brownites; and there's the centre left, which on all recent votes - at the 2009 conference and the deputy leadership campaign - commands a majority because the remaining affiliated unions are centre-left run.
The pattern in every attempted coup - above all last June when James Purnell resigned - is that the Blairite centre-right has to pull together two sets of people: cabinet ministers who are sick of Gordon Brown and think Labour cannot win with him in charge; and then the centre left.
That's for starters; because the way Mr Brown runs the Labour party is to use the centre-left-led unions as his organising base, specifically in the form of Charlie Whelan, political officer in Unite, and Ray Collins, the general secretary, also from Unite.
Any revolt involving left-MPs beyond Compass (figurehead Jon Cruddas) and the Campaign Group (figurehead John McDonnell) would have to see the leadership of Unite, Unison, the GMB etc be prepared to pick a fight with their "own men" inside the Labour machine.
For many months it's been clear that is not going to happen. It didn't happen in June, it didn't happen in January. Ergo, this side of an election it's not going to happen.
However, the independent factor is what goes on within the Labour Cabinet. Here, it is clear, since the pre-Budget report there have been frictions that precisely reflect the two "outer" wings of the party's priorities.
The centre left, in the form of William Straw's Left Foot Forward blog, has been calling for an overt Keynesian defence of budget deficits. Pressure from what's left of Labour's base in high finance is telling Mr Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling to balance the books faster and give a more convincing account of how they're going to do bring the budget deficit down.
Mr Brown and Education Secretary Ed Balls are said to believe they can fight the election on an "investment versus Tory cuts" line. Mr Darling and Lord Mandelson have been making noises about the opposite course of action: being straighter with the public about the cuts Labour will be forced to specify should it get back into office.
The problem over the weekend was that, faced with the question of what happens if growth returns quicker, what do you do with the tax receipts? Mr Brown indicated you invest them in services and Mr Darling indicated you pay back the debts.
One way of reading this week's events is that this unresolved tension within the Brown government over how to play the crucial issue of the budget deficit actually reflects the more solid ideological positions on the left and right of the party.
But that's not the only factor.
There is the wild-card issue of Mr Brown's leadership style. This, to be truthful, seems to satisfy almost nobody in the cabinet.
The Blairites-for-Brown moan openly to journalists about how ruthless and efficient the old Blair-Ally Campbell machine was; the true Brownites miss the days of those brutal 3am text messages from Damian McBride.
That discontent was what the plotters hoped to play on.
I understand Labour apparatchiks were aware this was coming from early Tuesday morning and the key issue was going to be the Cabinet. The unions, and backbenchers, will not act independently of that.
That is why all those "Miliband only declared at 6.45pm" news lines mattered: this is what Labour's HQ staff were watching and they were by mid-afternoon pretty worried at the non-appearance of many Cabinet members.
However, for me, Wednesday's events signal that the Gordon Brown leadership issue is over. The non-event tells you that all forces that now matter inside Labour have decided to go through to the election with Mr Brown as PM.
However, what it leaves open is this matter of substance: how to play the political economy of the budget deficit.
It will all come down now to a wrangle over the budget, assuming the election is in May.
Does Mr Darling sketch out at least one year's worth of cuts for each department in 2011-12, or does he do a mini-spending review, maybe with a two year horizon? Or do the growth projections get massaged upwards?
What you cannot do in a budget is split the difference between credibility with the markets and your own domestic political priorities.
Iceland, Greece and Ukraine are extreme forms but, as everybody in finance knows, the "bond vigilantes" in the City are out to get Gordon and if they decide to stage a test of Labour's fiscal credibility, it will not be done with a few cack-handed text messages at noon.