Byers gives game away on reshuffle
Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, broke with protocol by speaking about Mr Blair's shake-up. He told a London Business School meeting the Government's annual report would be published on Monday, with the reshuffle a day later. "Who knows, I might not have a job," he added.
Downing Street, which has repeatedly refused to confirm that cabinet changes are imminent, sought to play down the errant minister's comments as "a joke. The decision on the timing of any reshuffle and which ministers do which jobs in his Government are entirely a matter for the Prime Minister," No 10 said. "There is no question of Stephen Byers or any other minister knowing the timing of the reshuffle."
Privately, Mr Blair was said to be seething that four ministers have now commented publicly on his changes. "Why can't they keep their mouths shut?" snapped one Blair aide.
Mo Mowlam has pleaded in public for the chance to stay on as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to help to further the peace process. Mr Blair's close allies believe her outburst makes it inevitable that she will leave the Northern Ireland Office. "If she stays, everyone knows it will be against his better judgement," said one. "She has played it badly; she deserves a promotion and will get one, but now it looks messy."
Frank Dobson, who is resisting Downing Street pressure to run for mayor of London, said last week that he hoped to stay in his health role for some time to come. And yesterday John Reid, the Secretary of State for Scotland, confirmed the reshuffle would take place "next week" when he told MPs they would have to wait until then before finding out how many ministers the Scottish Office would have.
At a Downing Street briefing, Mr Blair's spokesman was asked why the Prime Minister was the only cabinet member not to have spoken publicly about the reshuffle.
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