Remember Jennifer's ear?
A long long time ago in the run-up to the election of 1992 the Westminster village worked itself up into a frenzy and even gave a name to it - "the war of Jennifer's ear". I sense that Labour are trying to recreate something similar in the row about Gordon Brown's alleged bullying which, inevitably, some are already dubbing "bullygate".
Way back then a Labour Party election broadcast which was based on the case of two little girls who had treatment for glue ear - one privately, one in the NHS. For three days, the election campaign was dominated by charge and counter-charge about whether the cases were genuine and about how the identity of one of the girls was leaked to the media. At the time Labour thought the row was good for them. Later many in the party concluded it had been at best a distraction and at worst highly damaging as people focused on how the party had behaved and not on the issue of the NHS that might have moved votes.
So it is that Peter Mandelson - who you may recall was rather heavily involved in that 1992 campaign - is now claiming that there is a "political operation" to undermine the prime minister. He has yet to say what he means by that or to provide any proof of it.
There are private nudges and winks that Christine Pratt who runs the National Bullying Helpline is a Conservative supporter. She denies any involvement with the party, although Ann Widdecombe and a Tory councillor are among the patrons of her charity and that charity has been endorsed by David Cameron.
Separately there are questions - which I wrote about last night - about whether she has risked breaching the confidentiality of those who call her helpline. Today one of her patrons resigned in protest at her actions. There are also questions about whether she uses her charity to channel business to her and her husband's company.
Finally, under enormous pressure, she has been unclear about the details of the complaints her helpline received.
All interesting and well worth pursuing - which we are.
All, however, distracts from the central issue of Gordon Brown's behaviour.
This morning the prime minister's official spokesman repeatedly failed to deny the claim in Andrew Rawnsley's book that the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell had spoken to Gordon Brown about his treatment of staff, instead simply stating that:
"The role of the Cabinet Secretary is to ensure the Civil Service supports the Prime Minister to the best effect and that the Prime Minister is getting the best out of the Civil Service".
He continues to insist that this conversation did not amount to a "verbal warning".
Is Lord Mandelson suggesting that the "political operation" he claims exists involves not just Andrew Rawnsley, the Labour Party and civil service sources he quotes extensively and the Observer which serialised his book but also the National Bullying Helpline, the BBC, ITV and Sky which ran her claims last night and, presumably, the Conservative Party as well?
Update 1610: Peter Mandelson has pointed out that in 1992 he played "absolutely no role" in Labour's national campaign and spent it campaigning in Hartlepool. I am happy to clarify.