This is just getting embarrassing. If there is one thing politicians are meant to be good at, it's backstabbing and treachery: yet after this week's shambolic efforts to unseat Gordon Brown, it's obvious the vital art of plotting is in sad decline. Whatever the merits of Brown's leadership, our future putsching cannot be allowed to become an international laughing stock. Here's how to do it properly:
1 Definitely think harder about the name. The "Snow Plot" just lent itself to headlines about slush and melting away. You want something that sounds less like rosy-cheeked winter frolicking, more like cold-blooded murder. It's all about the branding, especially when it comes to the inevitable (surely?) plot-associated merchandise. T-shirts might be nice. Team Gordon or Team . . .
2 Ah. Before overthrowing a leader, do line up a replacement. Thinking that David Miliband will be interested (again) only to have David Miliband dither for a few hours before retreating (again) isn't enough.
3 Coups are political theatre, which makes them all about casting. So probably don't put Patricia Hewitt in the lead. Good egg though she is, the mere sound of her voice makes too many male Labour MPs reach for their guns. Consider, too, whether the radical left really will rise up and follow the man who was defence secretary through the Iraq war. Maybe don't ask Tessa Jowell to be the ruthless, cold-eyed executioner, either.
4 Don't be so squeamish. Do not, for example, launch a coup and promptly insist that of course it isn't a coup, you're just trying to be helpful. Did Wat Tyler claim the peasants were revolting in order to support the jolly popular poll tax? Did Brutus suggest Caesar might welcome a stabbing to clear the air?
5 Emailing fellow MPs about one's plot could have been a good wheeze, avoiding the need for old-fashioned, tell-tale huddling in corners. Unfortunately, it means they can then email back being spectacularly rude about you. And then leak their emails to the LabourList website, in humiliating detail. Ever since Michael Portillo got caught installing phone lines, technology has not really been the plotter's friend.
6 Don't try whipping up a frenzy of despair on the one day things are vaguely looking up. He had a half-decent joke about marriage at prime minister's questions! He's only, um, nine points behind the Tories! For Gordon Brown, that's a day of glittering triumph.
7 Do it in summer. Have we definitely ruled out the possibility that the cabinet stayed on board because it was freezing out in front of the cameras? The best time for Hoon and Hewitt to act might have been just before parliament's summer recess: say, June. Maybe straight after some lousy local election results, but still a year away from a general election. Perhaps just as a young cabinet minister with leadership potential resigns, describing Brown as a loser. Shame that opportunity never arose, eh?
8 Learn from the Tories. Forget the myths about what brilliantly ruthless plotters they are: they were useless under William Hague (or he wouldn't have survived a parliament) and Iain Duncan Smith (or he wouldn't have survived a fortnight). But they improved with practice. And they realised the business of collecting enough MPs' names to force a contest (they only needed 25: it's 70 for a Labour contest) is hopeless: you can get 24 easily, but nobody wants to be the 25th, the one everyone blames.
9 Know your enemy. Westminster is littered with the corpses of people who crossed Gordon Brown en route to Downing Street: he is not going to quit because a few backbenchers criticise him on the telly. Also, know your allies in cabinet. Possibly even talk to them first. Always useful to know they didn't really mean it when they said they were with you all the way.
10 When it all goes wrong, avoid the next day's papers. If they're not full of untrue rumours started by Downing Street about your sex life, they'll be full of sanctimonious Tories pretending to feel sorry for you. Lick your wounds, and remember: at least you tried. And you can always say I told you so.