As troubles rain down upon the government, officials are feeling bemused. "It's headless chicken territory for ministers," said one insider. "Gordon rushed out his Queen's Speech plans, which was a mistake because it means we're now stuck with a load of legislation that nobody really wants." Officials are seeking relief from the gloom in gossip. "Civil servants love the kind of fun and frenzy that's going on now - wondering whether ministers like David Miliband or James Purnell will stay loyal or throw their hats in the ring - though both are really too young and raw."
Alan Johnson, the health secretary, has ruled himself out of being PM - he has said publicly he does not think he is up to it. Yet some say he is doing an excellent job at health - which is puzzling as not much seems to be happening there. "Exactly," said one senior figure. "He's charming, well liked and he has the ability to put a blanket of assurance over everything. Yet he's also extremely secretive - no U-turns from Alan - and he doesn't actually do much." Well, not in public. Apparently Mr Johnson has been backpedalling furiously over plans for polyclinics, which he is now calling health centres. Back in 1956, amid fears about National Health Service waste, the idea of health centres was mooted. An official report found they created as many problems as they solved.