by RAY FLEMING
GORDON Brown's Cabinet reshuffle yesterday contained one huge surprise - the return of Peter Mandelson from Brussels to head the Department of Business.

The only announcement that could have trumped it would have been the return of Tony Blair in some capacity or other - he could probably have fitted it in between his other six jobs - but that was obviously a bridge too far even for a prime minister who was willing to forget the long animosity between himself and Mr Mandelson in the interests of strengthening his economic team and consoling the remaining Blairites in the Cabinet. Business will welcome Mr Mandelson and his experience as an effective European Union Commissioner will be useful in Cabinet discussions.

Generally the reshuffle is tidy and by leaving the top five or six posts untouched the prime minister avoided any serious disruption and consolidated his own power. It was high time that Des Browne left the Ministry of Defence (a departure hinted at in this space yesterday) and John Hutton will be a competent replacement. The great survivor Geoff Hoon gets yet another lease of ministerial life, this time at Transport, and Margaret Beckett returns but in a relatively junior, though important, role as Housing minister. An interesting appointment is the former Immigration minister Liam Byrne as Cabinet Office minister with the task of acting as Gordon Brown's “enforcer”.

One unusual feature of the Mandelson appointment was that no one predicted it and it didn't leak -- Downing Street can still keep a secret sometimes.