From the start, the pro-democracy camp knew its attempt to topple Mr Tung was doomed to failure. If it needed any reminder, it got it when the votes were cast at the end of the debate on independent Albert Chan Wai-yip's motion calling for Mr Tung to resign. The troop of government-friendly legislators proved the political reality that it is impossible to topple the chief. Led by the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong and the Liberal Party - whose leaders are in Mr Tung's cabinet - they voted down Mr Chan's motion, which blamed six years of economic downturn and social problems on the chief executive's incompetence. The debate was the first of its kind since the handover and was noteworthy for another reason too. Three key officials - the secretaries for security, justice and administration - and 10 ministers put in an appearance in support of their boss during the debate. Only Sarah Liao Sau-tung, the environment chief and the cabinet member most popular with the public, was excused in order to a visit to a Sars-plagued hospital. Although the administration dispensed with the minders who usually haunt the Legislative Council's corridors to shepherd pro-government members into the chamber in time to vote, the presence of so many of Mr Tung's ministers and key lieutenants attested to the unease in the Tung camp. That Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen asked to speak at the start of the debate - no doubt to maximise coverage on the main evening newscasts - was a reflection of how much was at stake. One official sought to play down the presence of so many heavy hitters, going so far as to deny that Mr Tung had asked all his ministers to speak in his defence. They were present, the official added, to respond to Mr Chan's accusations, which covered nearly all policy areas. At the end of a stifling spring day, the atmosphere in the chambers was unusually hot. Out went any pretence of rational argument. Instead, what ensued was an ideologically charged shouting match. As the debate wore on inside and outside lightning flashed across the evening sky, pro-democracy legislator Michael Mak Kwok-fung resorted to flashing signs made by his constituents to bolster his arguments, as sniping from the sidelines threatened to drown out what he had to say.