The Spectator

Reshuffle will be official at lunchtime

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Just back from the first lobby briefing with Michael Ellam, the new Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (except he’s dropped ‘official’ so he’s just PMS). His hands were slightly shaking, the poor thing, and I can't really blame him. The room was packed, and a few of us are proudly sporting little red badges saying ‘Feral Beast’. The upshot: no reshuffle news till tomorrow lunchtime. No outsiders in the Cabinet, it seems: Mr Ellam says we will only see what Mr Brown means by “a government of all the talents” when the ministers of state are named on Friday. Mr Brown expects to use Chequers “occasionally” for family use. No confirmation that Beckett and Hewitt are goners, although I understand both have said farewell to their departments.

And as for the end of spin – well, get this. Mr Ellam came in bearing the news that Brown's first act was to “revoke the orders in council granting powers to special advisers to give instructions to civil servants”. Except this was entirely bogus: these powers were personally conferred on Alastair Campbell (who quit two years ago) and Jonathan Powell (who quit today). So there was nothing to abolish. I felt for Mr Ellam, this little ruse obviously wasn’t his idea. Under mild questioning, he quickly admitted this was a “meaningless gesture". Long may such honesty continue.