The long-awaited post-Hutton cabinet reshuffle is another victim of Tony Blair's screeching handbrake turn on Europe. Geoff "Buff" Hoon has proved immovable at Defence, presumably because he knows too much to be sent to the back benches. He is telling anyone who wants to listen (and plenty who don't) that he is not interested in being a European commissioner, wants to stay in cabinet but might be interested in a promotion. To what? Trade and Industry would be beneath him, likewise Environment. If we are lucky, he will overreach himself, but MPs fear we shall not know until after the London/Euro/council elections on 10 June. Blair cannot rejig his government before that date, they argue.
Just to add to what you already know. Charlie Kennedy rang Breakfast With Frost to deny he would step down as Lib Dem leader. Quite so. His MPs were then told by pager: "Any further comments would be unhelpful." Which explains the lack of reticence from Simon Hughes, the wannabe everything.
To the Gay Hussar for an entertaining lunch with Francis Beckett, NS contributor and co-author with David Hencke of a forthcoming biography of Tony Blair. Thankfully, this effort will not be quite so gushing as John Rentoul's offering and embarrassing revelations are promised. The book will be serialised in the autumn in the Guardian (Hencke's paper), for a fraction of the sum offered by the Daily Mail, on the direct orders of the editor, Alan Rusbridger. I hear that Linda McDougall is also bringing out an expanded version of her biography of Cherie Blair, with fresh disclosures. One way and another, a shame-making autumn beckons for the First Family.
Beckett (a former Labour press officer) has quit the party after 30 years over Iraq, as has Robert Taylor, a lifelong Hattersleyite and another NS contributor. Taylor has gone to the Lib Dems. Not many tears were shed over the loss of Joe Haines, Harold Wilson's press secretary, who once banned the Westminster lobby from No 10. Haines announced his departure as the paperback of his memoirs hit the bookshops. But there was obviously no connection between these events.
Just what did the Labour and Tory chairmen Ian McCartney and Liam Fox have to say to each other during their brief tryst in Strangers' Bar? Fox laughed it off with "we're always on the lookout for new recruits".
The death warrant of Charles I has been removed from the Royal Gallery at Westminster for a high-tech investigation. It bears 59 signatures, including Oliver Cromwell's, and was apparently drawn up before the king was sentenced on 27 January 1649. The date of execution was filled in later, with the last signatures added on 29 January, and his head was chopped off the next day. How very new Labour. Scientists may find the signature of David Triesman somewhere on the warrant.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror