Upon losing in February 2012, Kevin Rudd said that anyone wanting to get at Julia Gillard's leadership would have to come through him first (or words to that effect).
Yet, with Labor trailing, the election clock ticking, and with a lot of political scar tissue to carry, the party is worried and the leadership issue remains stubbornly alive.
Whether Rudd feeds it or not, Labor MPs are talking.
Nothing to see here: Kevin Rudd insists there is no challenge looming ... Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
After all, even those on moderately healthy margins face possible unemployment from September unless things improve markedly.
Such a thing tends to focus the mind.
Importantly, there is no great dispute between the two camps that Rudd's 31 votes secured back then have grown. The question is, how much.
... but will Julia Gillard lead Labor in to bat again against Tony Abbott at the September poll? Photo: Andrew Meares
Backers say it is now at 45 whereas Gillard loyalists say it is lower. Nobody knows for sure.
Clearly the spectre of another tawdry leadership upheaval in Canberra is enough to turn off all but the most committed of political enthusiasts.
Critics of the speculation protest that there is no challenge on at present and thus nothing to report.
And Rudd's response on Tuesday, where he called for people to calm down, supports that conclusion.
''I supported the Prime Minister . . . that remains my position,'' he said on Tuesday.
''Everyone should take a long, cold shower.''
This position sounds comprehensive.
And it is, for now.
Leadership campaigns, however, tend to follow their own unique rules, the first one of which is the insistence that there definitively is no challenge in the offing.
This insistence usually prevails right up until the moment that it doesn't.
A particular feature of this tension is that Rudd's supporters appear significantly more enthusiastic than he does.
Paul Keating famously said he'd had just one shot in the locker after his first tilt. It turned out he had two. Who knew?
Of course Rudd himself ruled out a first tilt 12 months ago before running for the job days later. ''That is not in prospect, because we have a prime minister and I am the foreign minister,'' he had said.
Rudd's return, if it is ever to happen, is unlikely to result from a challenge.
He made that clear last year and has reinforced it to colleagues on a number of occasions.
That leaves one option: a drafting.
But with just seven months to go before the election, it seems unlikely that the conditions could emerge for that to occur.