AS SPECULATION about a Blair reshuffle intensifies, word has reached Pandora of a "Stop Mandelson" campaign being waged on the highest slopes of the Cabinet. The Minister Without Portfolio continues to enjoy the warm support of the Prime Minister, and it is no secret that he would like to play a more influential role in the Cabinet. However, ministers who are far less warm towards him than Blair include Gordon Brown, John Prescott, Robin Cook and Jack Straw. Some ministers have said, privately, that they would relish seeing spin-doctor Mandelson appointed to a large- spending ministry such as, say, Social Security, where the heavy demands of office would not only curb his meddlesome tendencies, but perhaps prove too much for the man. Now there is talk of appointing a "Cabinet Minster for the Cabinet". This Cardinal Richelieu-worthy position could wield enormous power, without all the responsibilities of running a large ministry. Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, is said to be writing a feasibility report. In the meantime, while some ministers lobby against Mandelson, Pandora doubts that Blair has forgotten the importance of keeping Mandy on board to mastermind the next election campaign.
Curry no favour
DON'T be surprised today if the Boy Wonder's speech to his alma mater in the suburbs of Paris, business school Insead, burns hot with Eurosceptical fervour. Pandora can reveal that the writing of Hague's message came after a dangerous split within his own camp over what take-away food should be consumed during its composition. According to inside sources, curry won the day over pizza. Once the fuel had arrived from the Kundan curry house near Smith Square, the chances of Boy Wonder delivering a fiery oration in Fontainbleu were increased 10-fold.
IT IS FAIR to say that US Ambassador Philip Lader, who arrived in London last September, has not disappointed his critics. A great FOB (friend of Bill's), Lader first met Clinton at one of his touchy-feelie, networking- for-VIPs "Renaissance weekends" in Hilton Head, South Carolina. In the seven months since his arrival in this country, Lader has not made much of an impression on the British public. His sensitive diplomacy has included taking a swing through Birmingham as Clinton's advance man prior to the G8. But word has reached Pandora that quite a few of Lader's old "Renaissance weekend" buddies have been enjoying "pain-sharing" New Age weekends in the ambassador's temporary residence in Holland Park. Is Lader a contender for the title of Worst US Ambassador to the Court of St James? The early signs are encouraging.
Rare Welsh bit
PANDORA congratulates Lord Elis-Thomas for being named the first Welsh Nationalist candidate to run for one of the 40 seats in the new Welsh Assembly. The former Dafydd Thomas was elevated to the Lords by John Major in 1992 after representing Meirionnydd Nant Conwy as a Nationalist MP for18 years. Currently chairman of the Welsh Language Board - where he draws pounds 22,290 for a two-day week - Lord Elis-Thomas is a well-known face in the House of Lords. Welsh Assembly members are expecting to earn about pounds 30,000 a year. Quite a good career for a former self-professed Marxist.Reuse content