One ramification of this week's government reshuffle is a race to fill newly-anointed whip Greg Knight's shoes, as chair of the Commons Procedure Committee. And the race is on.
1922 Committee stalwart Charles Walker is doing a passable imitation of a ferret up a drainpipe, and was gathering signatures for his nomination within moments of the vacancy being announced. Several members of the committee (Mr Walker isn't a member) may be interested as well. And with important tweaks to be made to the working of the Commons, from the creation of a House Business Committee, to a promised revamp of the way private members' bills are processed, the chair and the committee could make a considerable mark.
Elsewhere, the final wave of the reshuffle has yet to hit…the promotions have meant some on the lowest rung of government life, the parliamentary private secretaries, have stepped up a rung and become actual ministers. And other PPSs have been orphaned by the demise of their principals - with some pretty indignant about the treatment of their ministers.
This might account for the spate of stories today about the (allegedly) brutal nature of some of the sackings - no offer of a gong, or of wine, or a brusque dismissal by phone, or whatever. And Labour has enjoyed, and promoted the image of David Cameron behaving like a Roman emperor compiling a list of senators to be executed. It may take a while for the newly-minted ministers of state (the more junior parliamentary under-secretaries do not qualify for a PPS) to decide whether to stick or twist with their predecessors' bag carrier.
Ins and outs
But, for hard-core parliamentary nerds, the awarding (or removal) of PPS status is often one of the most fascinating aspects of a big reshuffle, because it gives a rare public insight into the management style and priorities of the party high command; and reveals who is seen as up-and-coming, allowing outsiders to guess what qualities they value. Is loyalty valued over talent? Are former rebels being forgiven their trespasses? Is the ideological balance shifting? Many hours of happy Kremlinology can follow.
And the Kremlinology is not confined to outsiders. The winners may be happy, but those left out or demoted are not and they have been compiling some fairly scathing analyses of the whole reshuffle. It has produced a new acronym: non-DOMs (non-Dave's Old Mates) are said to be the victims, while the DOMs rise effortlessly over those who're not in the magic circle.
In addition, the announcement of a sheaf of knighthoods for departed ministers was being denounced as "crass" by another backbencher who has now joined the ranks of the usual suspect dissidents. As ever, the victims and the passed-over are more bitter than the winners and the promoted are pleased.
Perhaps the most interesting criticism I heard from a victim was that the whole thing was a year too early. The individual concerned affected proper stoicism, but he warned that the bitter and the disaffected now had nearly three years to vent their spleen. And he recalled that Tony Blair's backbench woes really began once a critical mass of angry ex-ministers and whips had accumulated on the New Labour backbenches.
The cycle, he warned, was starting again.