The insider - Paul Routledge hears tips for the reshuffle
The reshuffle gossip, cluster bombs for Belgium, and Jack Straw banned from Leeds
Foundation hospitals may dominate the headlines, but the bar talk is still of Blair's upcoming cabinet reshuffle. Amazingly, some MPs are still trying to convince themselves of the Mandy line that Gordon Brown is willing to move to the Foreign Office. The idea that he would hand over the Chancellorship to Jack Straw is risible. More likely is a dramatic shift in the other chancellery. By all accounts, Blair is fed up with the pushy behaviour of Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, in cabinet, and might yet let his old mentor go. The Great Helmsman has been useless at sacking ministers in the past, but victory in Iraq may embolden him. Clare Short's dog licence is likely to be revoked, and some MPs would like to see the back of Tessa Jowell from Culture, and Patricia Hewitt from the DTI. But apart from Derry, they are all women, and that would play badly with the babes.
Vladimir Putin's put-down of the PM in Moscow has obscured a fine bout of Europhobia by Alastair Campbell on the flight home. Lobby journalists watched the progress of the flight via an in-board electronic map. Ali gave a running commentary as they flew over enemy territory. The Netherlands was "friendly", but Belgium was "where we might use cluster bombs".
No 10 has asked the Westminster Press Gallery to drop the requirement to wear black tie at the bicentenary dinner on 21 May, which all three main party leaders are to attend. The stuffed-shirt brigade is reluctant, preferring the gallery to look like a convention of nightclub bouncers. The fuss is futile. Blair plans to eat one course, slag off the media and then leave. Ir'n Broon will be in mufti - if he turns up. Glasgow Celtic play in a European football game that night, and Scottish MPs will be as rare as hens' teeth.
For the first time anyone can remember, the BBC has cancelled live TV coverage of the Trades Union Congress, just as the new general secretary, Brendan Barber, and other new leaders take over. No doubt the Beeb's multitudes will descend on Brighton for Blair's speech, while the voice of the people is silenced. This completes a double for new Labour spinners, who have turned their own party conference into a fair likeness of the old Leipzig Trade Fair.
MPs seething about the impending disclosure of their allowances are plotting revenge on their civil service tormentors. Amendments to the new rules could force greater transparency - bills for expenditure and cutbacks on generous subsistence payments - on white-collar parliamentary support staff. Meanwhile, I am indebted to Refreshing News, staff newsletter of the Commons Refreshment Department, for the information that 1.4 million customers were served in the palace last year and that the "trading surplus" was £600,000. But the taxpayers' subsidy is still £5.7m.
Labour loyalist students are talking again of trying to rescind the ban on Jack Straw entering the students' union at Leeds University, where he was once the famously anti-ganja president. A plaque forbids entry to Frere Jack because of his human rights record as Home Secretary, and Straw was embarrassed to see it still in place when on a football trip there with his son. Don't expect a swift reversal of policy, Baghdad Jack. Previous attempts were dismissed out of hand.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror