The Sketch: So why are all these women going? To speculate is human

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The Independent Online

What's going on? Who knows? Who wants to know? Everything could turn out as everyone thinks or it could easily be the opposite. Cold blooded observers say we could just wait a week and we'd know, but waiting a week is not in our nature. Febrile speculation on the flimsiest information – that's our nature.

So why were all these women announcing their departures? Pat Hewitt. Beverley Hughes. Tom Watson. Not Watson, I stand corrected. Jacqui Smith. Yes, the Home Secretary yesterday re-announced her pre-announced announcement before the Prime Minister could de-announce her. Hazel Blears has been denounced tout court. "Totally unacceptable," the Prime Minister has said of her.

So, how unacceptable is "totally"? In vulgar cabinet terms, is Hazel in or out? She is the Secretary of State for Communities (it's why we have such strong communities, like Westminster); yesterday it was her question time. But she didn't answer any questions. That is, she didn't even try. She let Margaret Beckett do all that while she sat on her bench looking slowly left and right, like an ingenious automaton.

Did that mean she was out and Margaret was in? Mrs Beckett is a ministerial autocrat – she wouldn't let Geoff Hoon speak on Europe when he was her European minister. "Why are you doing this Margaret?" he asked her piteously as she allocated questions to anyone but him. "Because I can, Geoff," she replied. Was she doing the same to Hazel now?

But then there was talk of "the list" that's going around and Hazel's name was on it, yes, on it. But was it a good list or a bad list? And if it was a good list, why was she so persistently, so ostentatiously not taking questions?

Down in the Chamber they were moving on to "regional spatial strategies" but no one was listening. Mary Creagh was showing off the contents of her BlackBerry to her neighbour. In the gallery we were gossiping about – I'll write that again – we were evaluating the strategic implications of reshuffle options. No one was trying to pretend to be engaged in the questioning.

Jacqui's definitely on the way out but it wasn't clear who'd said that she was. "Sources." Did that mean Jacqui Smith herself? Or No 10? Was she on the same list as Hazel? But what was it a list of? Problems solved? Jacqui looked wonderfully cheerful presenting her Borders Bill. She laughed at Desmond Swayne, for instance and she'd never tried to do that before.

Darling to Home, Miliband to the Treasury, Mandelson to the FO, and Balls to... the lot of them. No, that can't be it, it's everyone's last chance. So, Balls to the Treasury, Miliband to Home, and Darling to the Geoffrey Howe position two sword lengths on the back bench.