Charles Clarke for Education, a Tory Revolution, and Some Guidance from Father-in-Law. (the Insider)

Article excerpt

Post-Blackpool, the rumour mill is busy, grinding out gossip about a cabinet reshuffle. Some expect one at the traditional time, next July, others if and when Britain goes to war against Iraq. Most often mentioned for the chop is Robin Cook, Leader of the House. His crime has been to doubt, semi-publicly, Tony Blair's handling of the Saddam Hussein crisis. He has also created waves with his robust defence of parliament versus the executive. The charge sheet against the vacillating Clare Short is not so impressive. Anyway, she usually falls into line when the bombs start dropping.

But what to do with Charles Clarke, who by common consent has screwed up (he would use less formal language) as party chairman? Political hacks thought his off-message remarks about the NHS and other issues were deliberate, the product of a licence from Downing Street to sniff the breeze. Now it appears they were plain, old, ordinary gaffes. The Northern Ireland Secretary, John Reid, is regarded as the most likely successor, but who would want to take over from His Thirstiness after his disastrous debut? Amazingly, Clarke is being talked of as education secretary, with Estelle Morris binned off for the A-level fiasco. I simply bring you this tittle-tattle as I hear it.

The other name in the frame is Alastair Campbell. He is said to be tired of working the great helmsman's sails. In Blackpool, Ali appeared at a lobby briefing dressed unusually casually, and offered a desultory rundown on the PM'S speech. Should he decide that eight years as Blair's alter ego is long enough, he could turn his secret daily diary into a million-pound bestseller. That's why he will be prevailed upon to stay. Anyway, unlike his titular boss, he is irreplaceable. …