No need to tell me. I got it wrong. I was confident until last week that Andrew Lansley would stay in post as health secretary until much closer to election day, when he would be sacrificed to the god of public opinion for whatever failings in his health reform blueprint were evident at the time.
I wasn’t alone in this. One major NHS player told me only the other day that Mr Lansley should stay on a while because he would act as a useful lightning conductor - “punchbag” was the word used - for necessary and unpopular reforms, a calculation which was a slightly more unkind version of my own.
On the other hand, a friend of a friend told me that NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson wanted him out of the way so that the permanent government in Whitehall - ie himself - could slow down the whole clinically based commissioning reform and avert the serious risk of a major health car crash this side of the election.
My source said that Stephen Dorrell would have suited Uncle Joe Nicholson as a replacement. That was never likely, political comebacks like that are rare. Instead, the Department of Health and the wider NHS family is getting… gosh, it’s getting Jeremy Hunt. I’ve just seen him emerge from Number 10 looking rather bashful to tell the BBC’s it’s “a huge task, the biggest privilege of my life”.
I have to say that promotion - the culture department is politically sensitive but has a tiny budget - surprises me.
It’s true that Hunt inherited Virginia Bottomley’s South West Surrey seat in 2006 (she did both cabinet jobs, too) and he - like her - is a child of upper middle class privilege (dad was an admiral). He went to Charterhouse school, got an Oxford first and joined a management consultancy.
As his handling of the Murdoch BskyB bid told us, he’s a bit gaffe-prone. In 2009 he co-sonsored a pro-localism book which called on the NHS to be “dismantled.”
Nor does Hunt, a few weeks short of 46, strike me as having the common touch, a feel for the hopes and fears of the millions who depend on the NHS, which will be needed.
In fairness - always worth the effort - he’s got an interesting CV, went off to teach English in Japan (where he met his wife), came back and made money in IT PR and directory publishing. An early Cameroon, he was also disability spokesman 2005-07 - and he’s obviously bright.
Why did Cameron move against Lansley, the man who (so he liked to remind officials) was once his boss - George Osborne’s boss, too?
It comes back to salesmanship, I think. As everyone now knows, Lansley knows the NHS better than most (“knows most, listens least” as one veteran adviser put it) but he couldn’t sell ice to a man dying of thirst. A well-scripted speech would die on his lips.
Cameron has been loyal over the omnishambolic health reforms, but has decided he now needs a more emollient figurehead.
Figurehead? Yes, this move further empowers Sir David and the clutch of unelected officials - David Bennett at Monitor, for example, Malcolm Grant as chair of the NHS Commissioning board, whose chief executive is, bless my soul, Sir David himself. They will be running the show at a crucial stage in the reforms.
Do I hear “consolidation” as the brakes go on? I think I do, although it’s too early to say and I don’t yet know if new junior ministers will provide clues.
Mr Lansley used to say health was the only job he wanted in government (he still thinks that) but has accepted leadership of the Commons. Cameron called him in at 8 on Tuesday morning and flattered him. “He’d be bored stiff on the backbenches,” says one chum. Quite.
Michael White writes about politics for The Guardian