The whispers about a rapid post-election reshuffle are gathering pace. Conservative MPs I’ve spoken to are eagerly discussing it. The idea would be to have the new team in place before next Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech. The launch of their new legislative programme is a pivotal moment for the coalition, and the suggestion is that the PM wants to have the ministers who will be responsible for each element of it in place before it is unveiled, avoiding messy swaps later in the year.
Bringing the reshuffle forward to this week has other advantages, too. The Conservatives are anticipating significant losses in Thursday’s local elections, and a reshuffle straight afterwards would serve to move the news agenda on to a new, less negative, story.
Andrew Lansley is top of the list to be moved on from the cabinet. The health secretary is currently thought to be “on manoeuvres” in an attempt to retain his position. Jeremy Hunt was previously the favourite to replace him, but the events of the past few days suggest that Cameron will keep Hunt where he is and “reshuffle around him”, as one MP put it, both as a means of demonstrating his continued support for the culture secretary and because a change of Olympics minister at this point could hinder the run up to the Games.
An ‘A-List’ and a ‘B-List’ of MPs who are being considered for promotion has already been drawn up by No 10, I understand. Maria Miller at DWP, Grant Shapps at DCLG and Nick Herbert at the Home Office are all high-achieving junior Conservative ministers to look out for later this week. As I wrote last week, there is widespread dissatisfaction with Vince Cable at BIS, but it’s far from obvious where he could be moved to.
The prime minister was previously expected to delay major changes to his senior ministers until after the Olympics, but there have been suggestions of late that he is considering bringing it forward. After the past few days of political turmoil, getting the reshuffle out of the way before the Queen’s Speech so as to make it a true relaunch of the Cameron project seems increasingly to make sense. It could also, of course, would mark a risky change that could causes discontent as much as reenergising the government. David Cameron has delayed any major reshuffles so far but perhaps it’s the kind of change he needs to make at this critical moment for the government.