The insider - Paul Routledge tips Tessa Jowell for the sack

Tessa Jowell tipped for the sack, spooks seen in Press Gallery, and the lion that didn't roar

News of an impending night of long knives on Michael Howard's front bench has overshadowed Tony Blair's cabinet reshuffle, due next month. The word now is that the Great Helmsman does not envisage great change. One in the know predicts "not much movement at the top, more of a double shuffle in the middle ranks". Tipped to enter the cabinet are Jane Kennedy, at Work and Pensions after a stint in the Northern Ireland Office, and the colourless but capable John Hutton at Health. But could the top layer accommodate him and the even more anonymous Andrew Smith, in post because he is Gordon Brown's placeman? And who goes out? Tessa Jowell's jacket has been on a shoogly nail for some time, despite her taking loyalty to absurd lengths. That should help Kennedy's chances on gender-balance grounds alone. Meanwhile, Dracula Howard, infuriated at the high gaffe factor in the shadow cabinet, plans to reward loose talk with the sack. Oliver Letwin, Tim Yeo and Caroline Spelman are in the firing line. George Osborne and David Cameron are worth watching.

The latest chairman of the Labour Party has got MPs growling with rage again. Ian McCartney launched a membership drive in the middle of the "Super Thursday" election campaign. "As if we hadn't enough on our bloody plate trying to get the vote out," moaned one backbencher. Question: would this ersatz post survive a Brown premiership?

And what future for the arts minister, Estelle Morris? My snouts in the West Midlands suggest that she may not stand in the general election. Her Birmingham Yardley seat is under threat from the Lib Dems, but the local MEP Michael Cashman believes he can save it from the marauding Kennedy hordes. New Labour, terrified of losing Leicester South to the Lib Dems following the death of Jim Marshall, may face another losable by-election in Birmingham Hodge Hill, where the "old Labour workhorse" Terry Davis is ready to quit for the Council of Europe presidency.

As if that were not enough, Muslims in neighbouring Sparkbrook and Small Heath want George Galloway to stand for his party, Respect, against Roger Godsiff, the ex-GMB union apparatchik. This contest is billed as Gorgeous v Dracula, though Godsiff's Transylvanian links escape me.

Security in the chamber has scaled new heights. Brian Shallcross, Press Gallery chairman, tried to take his place in the gallery for PM's Questions and found it occupied, along with the next one, by men of menacing mien. When he asked them to move, he was told "MI5" and to make himself scarce. He should have realised sooner. You can always tell spooks from hacks: they have suits of superior cloth, except for the lobby correspondent David Rose, who thinks nothing of spending £800 on a jacket.

As stories of Andrew Marr's departure from the BBC after the election gain ground, MPs are asking who will take over from Big Ears. Nick Robinson of ITN is regarded as the wisest choice.

Large stone statues of a lion and a unicorn have appeared in the passage from the Commons to Portcullis House. Instant legend has it that whenever a virgin walks by, the lion roars, and the unicorn leaps from his pedestal in pursuit. So far, they have not moved.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror

This article first appeared in the 14 June 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Escape from UKIP