3 Sep 2012

Who gets the goodbyes in the PM’s cabinet reshuffle?

The reshuffle was in the PM’s diary for tomorrow, as he has a few other meetings and a visit to busy himself with today. But I suspect some of the conversations are being brought forward and getting peppered round his working day today. There’s a cabinet meeting in the diary for tomorrow. Civil servants say it’s a normal morning one, but a No 10 source suggested it could slip to the afternoon. 

The reshuffle doesn’t look like being a thrilling curtain raiser to the political season. The prime minister made clear in his Mail on Sunday piece yesterday that he wants to create the impression of thinking big, of being against tinkering or “dithering.”  But we look like we’re going to get a few relative unknowns switching seats at the top table. That won’t necessarily help the “bold thinking” message along.

The challenge for the PM further down the ministerial ladder is to accomodate 2010 intake MPs (who make up half the parliamentary party) without alienating those left out and without generating a feeling that he’s “lurched to the right” or “shunned the right”.

He also has to keep an eye on the number of women in the cabinet if he’s relieving Cheryl Gillan and Caroline Spelman of their jobs. That could mean that Baroness Warsi gets a department of her own after leaving the Tory chairmanship. Note also that Maria Miller was brought up in Bridgend in South Wales, giving her a stronger connection with the principality than some previous occupants of that Secretaryship of State  for Wales (bigger than John Redwood or William Hague, at any rate).

There’s a Commons tea-room chat already doing the rounds about who will be the hardest minister to dislodge. Votes were piling up for Andrew Robotham, who was said to be less than impressed that he was being made a mere junior minister at the MoD in the first place. Another calculation the PM has to make is his Etonian quota. He may feel that it wouldn’t look great if the number went up. It was 12 when last I checked.

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