David Cameron has done well to avoid it for so long and people have been minding their P&Qs waiting to see what happens. The party knows that Cameron and George Osborne love ‘yes-men’, and, of course, ’yes-women’ are even better for the quota figures. So, today, the Parliamentary Party talks incessantly about nothing else apart from the blasted reshuffle.
But who’s going up and who’s going down. Older members of the government such as George Young, Gerald Howarth, Henry Bellingham, John Hayes, Crispin Blunt, Simon Burns, Stephen O’Brien, Bob Neil, Alistair Burt, Michael Fabricant and others of their ilk better watch out. They may find they are forcibly retired. In many cases, the sacking would be quite unfair but Cameron’s not too bothered by meritocracy or fairness.
It’s about image and quotas, having enough ethnic minorities and woman to tick the boxes. These old white middle-class boys won’t play hard-ball, they’re not Mark Pritchard or Nadine Dorries. They’ll go quietly.
Osborne will want to use the opportunity to slip a few of his anointed sons and daughters around Whitehall in key ministries, not least to keep an eye on potential rivals. He’s already got Greening Transport and Hammond in Defence and a decent number on the more junior ladders. He clearly learnt a lot from Gordon Brown’s time at the Treasury. We’ll see more of his henchmen put in place to watch Theresa May, Grant Shapps, Jeremy Hunt and anyone else perceived a threat - even, just in case, the ever popular but now un-ambitious William Hague.
But what if Cameron and Osborne promote too many from the 2010 intake? Those dropped from the 2005 intake to make way for Lib Dem ministers would probably go bonkers, berserk, even insane. Ben Wallace, Tobias Ellwood, Mark Lancaster, David Burrows and others would throw their toys out of the pram. They won’t tread water a moment longer than the time it would take to say ‘loyalty’ after the reshuffle.
Then there’s the issue of the rebels, some of whom haven’t given up hope of promotion despite their voting record. Andrea Leadsom, Priti Patel, David Morris, Stephen Brine and Nigel Mills, for example, continue to have ambitions. Yet there were many who took the flak from their constituents, stayed loyal to the government and would be apoplectic if a rebel was promoted ahead of them.
Oh Cameron, what will you do? It could all blow-up rather badly.
The author is a backbench Conservative MP