During yesterday's session of Prime Minister's Questions (a session that the press said Gordon Brown won), two former Labour ministers circulated a letter asking for a secret ballot vote of the Party's confidence in Gordon Brown's leadership as Prime Minister. Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon launched the coup believing that up to a half dozen Cabinet ministers would join in the coup. The coup fell apart as during the afternoon and evening Cabinet ministers announced their support.
With a General Election this year, and the campaigning informally begun, there could not have been a worse time for an attempted leadership coup. All the recent polling indicates that Labour had pulled close enough to the Conservatives that a hung parliament was a possibility. At the very least the Tories would have a small majority in the Commons, and small majorities make it harder to push an agenda through and can often lead to early elections.
It seems to me that this aborted coup is the type of event that can seal a party's fate. The end result will be, I think, a reasonably comfortable Tory majority and a bloody Labour leadership election.