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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
In Newslog, Nick Robinson keeps a unique diary from the heart of the news. Add your comment too.

Wednesday 29 May

In and out of Downing St
posted by Nick | 0932 BST | Add comment
It looks as though we have Britain's first ever black cabinet minister. A grinning Paul Boateng has just emerged from Number 10.

Strange to recall that when was first elected to Parliament as MP for Brent, he declared (somewhat hysterically) that after Brent, Soweto was next.

To be fair to him, had he said that the cabinet would be next, it would have been as implausible and almost as significant.


Reshuffle day
posted by Nick | 0925 BST | Add comment
It's that day again. Ranks of snappers screaming "THIS WAY" to hopeful ministers... endless speculation (from me included) as to who will get what job.

Remember when you hear those predictions that no-one really knows. I recall watching Jack Straw stroll up Downing Street armed with briefing papers on the day of the last reshuffle straight after the last general election.

So convinced was he that he, not Stephen Byers, would be the next transport secretary that he started to read himself in. If someone that close to Tony Blair didn't know what was happening, how on earth do you expect some of those expressing an opinion to know?


Tuesday 28 May

Response to user comment
posted by Nick | 1838 BST | Add comment
THAT'S THE QUESTION WE ALL WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWER TO! It does all seem a little convenient that he resigned at the best possible moment for the government (eve of World Cup, the Golden Jubileee and with MPs on holiday). Another pointer is the statement of praise from the prime minister backed up by cabinet ministers and the fact he was given Downing Street to announce his resignation. Was that perhaps the sugar on the pill the prime minister handed him to swallow?


User comment:

Nick, do you really think Byers resigned? Charlie Whelan seems to think he was pushed - and suggests that anyone going along with Byers' line is a fool..?
Pat Wallace, England


Bye bye Byers
posted by Nick | 1658 BST | Add comment
Well well. I must learn to choose my words more carefully.

When told at three o'clock that there was a mysterious announcement to made at Downing Street an hour later, I instantly reached for the phone and asked a government source: "Is Stephen Byers still transport secretary?"

At first I got an evasive answer. I asked again, and I was assured yes, he was still transport secretary.

As I walked through the doors of Number 10, my source said: "You did say 'still', didn't you?"

The signs were pretty obvious in that hour. All Mr Byers' friends and colleagues were either unavailable or slammed the phone down.

However, government always has the capacity to surprise, and speculation about what the announcement was concerning ranged from John Prescott retiring (he recently announced he has diabetes and has just turned 64) to "We're joining the euro" to Osama Bin Laden being appointed as the new ambassador to...

Things get frantic at moments such as these.

I'm told that Mr Byers first thought seriously of going late last week, that he then thought about it over the weekend, before telling the prime minister at a meeting yesterday afternoon.

Insiders put his decision down to "wear and tear", and they point particularly to the fact that even after the death of people in the Potter's Bar rail crash, the issue of whether Byers could be trusted to tell the truth was the story.

If you ask me, the problem that Steve Byers was very slow to recognise was the he had become the symbol (not always fairly) of the thing that many people hate most about this government - namely spin.


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