More stories from the dark side as politicians struggle for each others jobs, rogue builders cash in on the floods and I violate the smoking ban

Shuffle down

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Eland House this week. Microscopic Blairite Hazel Blears has been appointed secretary of state at the communities department, despite coming last in Labour’s deputy leadership election. Although the new prime minister has packed the department with allies, they are lower down the ranks. Yvette Cooper, the housing minister, had been widely tipped for promotion in the reshuffle, but only gets to attend Cabinet meetings when housing is discussed. Blears’ other deputy, John Healey, who worked with the new prime minister at the Treasury for years, was also tipped for greater things. Expect to watch the fur fly at the department over the coming months.

Where no stars shine

The Cabinet reshuffle didn’t just take Whitehall by surprise. Guests expecting glitzy speeches at the All-Party Building Services Engineering Group lunch last week were disappointed, as Margaret Hodge had been packed off to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, hostess Claire Curtis-Thomas was busy, and the DTI had been disbanded. Luckily, John Spellar, the group’s vice-chair, was called in to welcome the throng. Guests were probably relieved that the group’s treasurer wasn’t asked to speak – Richard Younger-Ross’ dull question was dismissed by Tony Blair with “I’m not bothered about that one” at his final Commons appearance.

Stop copying me
Credit: Scott Garrett

You heard it there first

There’s a lot of talk these days about Labour and the Conservatives converging on policy. Now I’ve discovered they’re even nicking each other’s lines. Last week, Building reported that Michael Gove, the Tory housing spokesperson, said the only way to get a foot on the housing ladder was if you had access to “the bank of mum and dad”. A quick bit of sleuthing shows exactly the same line popped up in his opposite number Yvette Cooper’s speech to the Fabian Society last month.

The enemy within

Never mind terrorists – the greatest threat we face right now is the cowboy builder. Following last week’s flooding, there’s going to be a lot of rebuilding work, but there aren’t enough builders to do it, meaning that the area will be flooded anew with unscrupulous tradespeople. Residents have been advised to get three quotes and be wary of those offering repairs at reduced rates – shame nobody thought to warn the FA before it accepted those bids for Wembley …

Poking fun

Well, I am getting popular. After a colleague put my mug on Facebook, the online social networking site, for an article last month, I have now made friends with – count ’em – 10 people. One is the improbably named Super Bo. My image on the site sees me in dapper attire, smoking a cigarette. Mr Bo enquired last month: “Looking good Joe! However, how do you intend to cope with the smoking ban?”

Surely legislation does not stretch to online smoking as well?

What’s my name again?

The DTI has been catchily rebranded the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform or DBERR (pronounced “Da Berr”). Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Civil servants have been ordered not to use the old name any more, but many are finding it difficult to remember the new one. Showing uncharacteristic levels of creativity, the mandarins have come up with a seventies advertising jingle to help them. All together now: “We’re only here for DBERR!”