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Government sources say that a reshuffle will take place next week, and Simon Burns’s resignaton suggests this is correct. We have been here before, and fairly recently. It was due before the summer recess, and was postponed: Downing Street thought that since shuffles always cause more pain than pleasure, it was best to put it off, rather than mar an improving atmosphere in the Parliamentary Party. It was then due after the summer recess, and was again postponed: Number 10 concluded that the mood of Tory MPs was too turbulent, in the wake of its mishandling of the Syrian crisis, for a reshuffle to take place.
But on the assumption that it could take place as soon as Tuesday, let’s have a look at what might happen when it does. (Watch for the Sunday papers: the time-honoured custom is for them to be tipped off, though some details may leak out today.) I have previously explained why it will be a reshuffle for women and explored the numbers. The best way of calculating what’s more likely to happen than not is to assume that David Cameron will tend to dismiss Ministers on three grounds – ones which tend to be related: intake, age and how long the person concerned has been serving on the front bench.
The first is probably the most reliable measure, and it breaks down as follows:
I’ve counted neither Whips nor Ministers entitled to attend Cabinet.
If Cameron is calculating on the ground of original intake, Fallon, Burt, Duncan, Lidington, Robathan, Green and Hayes and would be the first to go, in that order. But matters aren’t nearly that clear-cut (nor should they be), though I certainly expect the cull to start at the older end. Any Government needs heavy lifters at Minister of State level – people who could be promoted to Cabinet and run a department: Fallon and Green, for example, fall into that category. Why sack Ministers who are doing a good job, and replace them with people who may not? Indeed, why have a reshuffle at all,?
The answer is that there is always a handful of Ministers who just aren’t up to it, and that the Prime Minister is determined to prepare the ground for a Cabinet-level shuffle which will put in more women. It would be bad manners for me to write about who should leave the Government, though I’ve written before about who should be moved or promoted – for example, Fallon should be in the Cabinet and Francois would toughen the Foreign Office as Europe Minister. Certainly, watch out for Sajid Javid, Esther McVey, Liz Truss, Nicky Morgan and Karen Bradley.