Paul Routledge

It very much looks as though Tony Blair, taking victory for granted in a spring election, is turning his thoughts to a shake-up of government structure. His Cabinet secretary, Sir Richard "Jug Ears" Wilson has been sporting the oak in his office, and virtually nobody sees the confidential papers that emerge from time to time. My Civil Service snouts are convinced that he is working on a reshaping of Whitehall departments, encompassing not only the largely obsolete Welsh and Scottish Offices, but also the Home Office, Environment, Transport and the Regions, Agriculture, and perhaps others.

When the piano stops playing, there are unlikely to be enough chairs for everyone in the present Cabinet. This would neatly avoid the necessity of sacking anyone, for, as we all know, Blair is a pretty hopeless sacker. More Cabinet ministers have held on to their jobs for the whole parliament under his premiership than anyone can remember.

The Foreign Office minister Keith Vaz didn't have many takers for his invitation to New Year drinks in the Locarno Room of the FO. If there is a next time, there will be even fewer. Vaz spent more than half an hour greeting guests as they straggled in, and then subjected them to a long, boring speech. The Dome minister, Lord Falconer, yawned ostentatiously throughout. Does he, one wonders, have designs on Vaz's job?

The newly late George Carman QC was, according to one among the horde of Labour lawyer MPs, banned from a wine bar in the environs of Fleet Street after an altercation with several customers. "Don't bother to give a reason," the legal Lothario advised the manager, "because whatever you say I shall sue for slander."

It is greatly to be hoped, as the Manchester Guardian would have said, that Tom Pendry, the sociable MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, passed over for sports minister in favour of the egregious Tony Banks, gets the peerage for which he pines, now that his safe seat has been given to James Purnell, a Downing Street milk monitor. The boy Purnell had laid siege to the constituency, visiting every weekend since the general election.

Footnote to the £6m new Labour campaign fund donation. Lance "Cheap at Half the" Price, Millbank's director of information, asked the parliamentary press gallery secretary John Deans, of the Daily Mail, if he could hold a press conference in the Commonwealth Writing Room at Westminster. "When?" asked Major Deans, TA. "In ten minutes," panicked Price. He had just learnt that the Economist was about to break the story of the £2m gifts from Lord Sainsbury and Christopher Ondaatje. Presumably, the Commonwealth Writing Room, comfortably appointed with deep sofas, gets its name from the Ugandan activities occasionally enjoyed there by hacks.

It looks as if a statue to the memory of the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst will, after all, grace the lawns outside parliament. Pressure from the sisters has convinced Tory leaders of Westminster City Council that she should be honoured along with her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel. They are already commemorated in Victoria Gardens, but Sylvia was excluded because she was too much of a lefty and troublemaker (she was thrown out of the Communist Party for bad behaviour). Only the parliamentary authorities yet remain to be convinced, which may take another 50 years. Sylvia would see the irony of this.

I spent part of Christmas in snowy Glenfeshie with Charlie Whelan - in the same cottage that he rented two years ago when he was being hunted by the press over the resignation of Peter Mandelson. The Daily Record printed "Wanted" posters, but the sleuths didn't find him, though they knocked on the house next door. All the locals lied about his whereabouts, which tells us something about the comradeship of the Scots.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror

This article first appeared in the 15 January 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Dotcoms will rise again