Remember last summer's rebellion: it was the revenge of the Blair babes. Siobhan McDonagh, Joan Ryan, Fiona Mactaggart, Janet Anderson - with Ruth Kelly being the Cabinet casualty. They all knew they would be briefed against by McBride, that their personal lives would be exposed to the gossip columns. But it was a price they were willing to pay.
McBride did an effective job in the end, identifying and 'outing' them so they could not detonate in a co-ordinated way. But now the Labour sorority is back. Flint wants to know why, if Geoff Hoon and James Purnell are both guilty of property expense tricks, Hazel is being briefed against and denounced as "totally unacceptable"? Of course the reason is that Blears had the guts to write that Observer article saying "YouTube if you want to" so singling her out is a political act. But it seems the iron chipmunk has her friends, too.
Last September, one of the Labour rebellettes explained to me that there is something about Brown's modus operandi that women find particularly offensive: the bullying tactics, the clunking great fist mien, the way he uses attack dogs in a way that even Tony Blair would baulk at. On a deeper level, now, they fear the creeping takeover of the party by the Unite trade union via Charlie Whelan who has also been taken on by female officers in the union and formally charged with bullying. To certain Labour women, they see the Brown-Whelan-McBride-Derek Simpson thing as part of a menacing testosterone-sodden axis. And one that needs to be challenged.
Factor in that Brown has a problem with women voters, and the gender element does indeed add up to one that Brown should be worried about. He'll have no problem from Labour men who do nothing apart from moan into their beer glasses (and a sorry sight they are too, on the Terrace bar of the Commons each night). But Labour women have a track record of action against Brown. And if he's not careful, after leading Labour into third or even fourth place in the election, these Warrior Princesses may well come for him. And I, for one, can't wait.
PS The picture here is reproduced courtesy of the News of the World graphics team. I thought CoffeeHousers might appreciate it.
UPDATE – We have reposted this to the site after investigating a complaint on behalf of Carter-Ruck, Mr Whelan’s lawyers. They claimed that the all of the cases against him were withdrawn. This, as it turns out, is misleading: they were settled in “compromise agreements” with the women concerned.