Although there may have been someone like him at Court in Versailles, Lord Mandelson's position is without precedent in British politics. He is the choreographer-in-chief, with the rest of the Cabinet as Mandy's marionettes, Mr Balls excepted. But where is this all leading?
In answering that, we should never discount Peter Mandelson's fascination with the political process, irrespective of its content. At times, it seems as if his whole soul has been sublimated into manoeuvring and manipulation. There is also Labour tribalism. Beyond that, everything becomes mysterious. At one moment, he seems determined to keep Gordon Brown afloat. Then, he tells some very important people that he has had it up to here with Gordon. One can only surmise.
My belief is that he has already written off the election and is devoting all his energies to the future. He will continue to work hard in the election campaign, to try to avoid a massacre and to ensure that he retains his current prestige: kingmakership beckons. There are those who believe that he is working for a Blairite restoration, and he is certainly determined to stop Ed Balls becoming leader. Yet it may be that a Blairite renewal is an oversimplification and that Peter's main aim is to keep the Labour party together
I would say that given all that has happened recently, it seems to be a pretty fair summary of the present state of play!