The summer parliamentary recess approaches and despite being a PM who doesn’t favour them, rumours of a Cabinet re-shuffle are well and truly afoot.
How do we know this? Well, government MPs have been reasonably well behaved in recent weeks as a number of them eye up their prospects of promotion from PPS through to perhaps the Cabinet table itself. Downing Street often uses the re-shuffle as way of instilling some discipline on the back benches to ensure their good behaviour.
So, what can we expect from this re-shuffle, a major shake-up or tinkering around the edges just ten months from the General Election? Although the PM will want lots of safe pairs of hands (i.e. no rookie scandals) they’ll be more women that’s for sure. Private polling shows the Tories are not appealing to women voters and Labour’s repeated jibes about the male, Etonian front bench are starting to stick. Let’s just hope it remains talent over quotas.
Among the big beasts, Michael Gove has cut an interesting figure recently. He got involved in a very public spat with the Home Secretary, Theresa May (who will stay in position) and then had to watch his former special adviser publicly attack the Prime Minister. If the rumours are right and William Hague would like to stand down as Foreign Secretary could Gove be a credible long-term replacement?
In the event Hague, who is easily the most able of Cameron’s team, does step down he could do a lot worse than ask him to serve as Party Chairman. Grant Shapps appears to many as likeable but too lightweight to carry the Party’s message across the airwaves in the critical period running up to the General Election.
Kenneth Clarke, minister with a made up title, is certain to be demoted. Clarke on a number of recent occasions has appeared in the media with remarks not on message or formally cleared by Downing Street. Now is perhaps a good time to promote a rising star to this role?
Another minister with a made up ‘senior’ job title, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, is also vulnerable in her role as faith minister. She’s been critical of some of Cameron’s appointments and less than enthusiastic at the PM’s response to the Trojan horse schools scandal. There is no doubt that sacking Warsi, a member of the House of Lords, would be a popular move amongst many aspirational MPs and the party faithful, but in today’s world he would perhaps have to replace her with the much more popular Asian female, Priti Patel to ward off any bitter backlash. The newly appointed and capable Sajid Javid also gives Cameron some cover when it comes to ethnic minority representation.
Andrew Lansley, Owen Paterson and Sir George Young look certain to follow Clarke out of the Cabinet. Paterson did not cover himself in glory handling the recent floods or the badger cull. Sir George, bless him, stepped up to steady the ship in the aftermath of the Andrew Mitchell affair and it is generally viewed that the time has come to pension him off. Lansley, not yet forgiven for his time looking after health, has his eyes on a bigger prize than Leader of the House being lined up in Europe.
Cameron will need to look to the junior ministerial roles. The PM has reportedly said he wants a woman in every government department, and to be fair he has a growing pool of experienced talented woman to choose from. In particular, Liz Truss at the Department for Education and Esther McVey at the Department for Work and Pensions are looking like certainties for promotion.
Will Andrew Mitchell return? Who knows, but also watch out for Matthew Hancock, if Cameron is feeling brave, he’s a likeable up and coming MP put up on television recently to give the Conservative line.
Whatever happens Cameron will be aware that this reshuffle will be the face of the Conservative party before the 2015 General Election, so he needs to get it right.