The hope and despair of waiting for that reshuffle call

Reshuffle or not, it is "business as usual" at the Wales Office, the Whitehall department that represents Wales in the UK government.

Secretary of State Cheryl Gillan has cast aside the speculation over her own future to spend a normal Monday in Cardiff meeting officials and politicians.

She has "bilaterals", as they are known in the trade, with, among others, the leader of the Conservatives in the National Assembly, Andrew RT Davies, and the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.

Her deputy, David Jones, one of those tipped to succeed her, has other duties today. In his role as an ambassador for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, he is welcoming visitors to the equestrian events at Greenwich. (Mrs Gillan handed out bouquets to athletics medallists yesterday)

Back at Westminster, it is also business as usual as MPs return from their summer break. As I write, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is making a statement on "House of Lords reform - or what's left of it" (his words).

For those hopeful of advancement, the days leading up to a reshuffle can be a stressful time. As John Cleese's character in Clockwise put it: "I can take the despair, it's the hope I can't stand".

Those with the broadest smiles are those, as one of them put it to me, "without a call in hell's chance of promotion".

They have discounted the despair and disappointment that comes with thwarted ambition. They know what they will be doing this time tomorrow and remain in control of their diaries and lives, despite the absence of a ministerial car. They can turn their mobiles off.

In what must be unbearable for the desperately ambitious, the human drama of the reshuffle is played out in public as journalists discuss the fate of politicians who may not be seen on TV screens again until the next reshuffle.

As Andrew Neil put in on today's Daily Politics "Nothing gets us more excited than a cabinet reshuffle: we talk about it endlessly, even though we know nothing at all".

As we talk about it endlessly, we sometimes suspend judgement on the point and impact of reshuffles - Saturday's Guardian tried to fill the gap.

Downing Street is expected to put the ambitious and the doomed out of their agony within the next 24 hours.