Andrew Sparrow has an interesting post on the democratic implications of the latest government reshuffle at the Guardian's politics blog here.
In the past this country's informal constitution included limits on the number of MPs and peers who could be given paid government jobs so as to restrict the ability of a Prime Minister to buy support for the government in parliament by lavish handouts of government jobs. The law still exists but they have got round it by appointing people to unpaid ministerial positions (see point 4 below.)
In that context it is most interesting to read Andrew's key points about the reshuffle, which in summary are:
1. The government is bigger than ever. According to his calculations, there are now 121 ministers, whips or law officers.
2. The payroll vote is bigger than ever. The payroll vote refers to members of the government and parliamentary private secretaries.
Paul Waugh has worked out that if you include the five backbenchers who have been given jobs as regional ministers' assistants and two backbenchers who have been made "government representatives" (ie, "envoys"), then no fewer than 44% of the all Labour MPs have an official government post of some kind.
3. The cabinet is huge. Officially there are only 23 members of the cabinet. But another 10 ministers have the right to attend on some or all occasions.
4. The number of ministers working for free seems to be higher than ever. There are 13 ministers or whips working without a ministerial salary.
5. Brown has now promoted most of those involved in the "curry house plot" against Tony Blair in 2006. As Rosa Prince has pointed out, 11 of the 15 members of the 2001 intake who signed a letter calling for Blair to quit have now got a government job or a select committee chairmanship.
6. You don't actually have to be sitting in the Commons or the Lords to be a minister. As Norton points out, Peter Mandelson, Stephen Carter and Paul Myners are already fulfilling their ministerial duties even though they haven't taken their seats in the Lords.
7. And we now have a minister for content. The the official list of departmental responsibilities for the culture department shows that Carter will be in charge of "communications and content"