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By Paul Goodman

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The way reshuffles work is roughly as follows:

  • Downing Street lets it be known that a shuffle will happen about a week in advance.
  • Journalists and politicians look down the list of Ministers and identify the longest-serving.
  • They repeat these names to each other as likely shuffle victims.
  • These names duly find their way into the press and on to the blogs.
  • Number 10 then gives the weekend papers a firmer steer on those who will be dismissed.
  • This is often the first that those who are about to be dismissed have heard about it.
  • These names then appear alongside those that have done so already, to general confusion.
  • The Prime Minister then summons those who are about be dismissed to his Commons room.
  • He tells them that they're doing a first-rate job from which he is sacking them.
  • Details of some of these meetings end up in the press, not by Number 10's design.
  • Those who are promoted aren't always grateful and those who are sacked are often angry.
  • A culture of loyalty once insulated the leader from that anger, but it is rather frayed.
  • The same culture also bolstered gratitude, or at least restrained further expectation.
  • Ambitious 2010 intake members who weren't promoted last year will be hopeful.
  • Unhappy former Shadow Ministers left out in 2010 will see this as their last chance.
  • There are 17 LibDem Commons Ministers (counting whips).
  • This means that there are 17 fewer Ministerial posts for Conservative MPs.
  • It follows that most Conservative MPs are men.
  • Cameron's aspiration therefore raises that hoary old debate about promotion on merit.
  • This Government's reshuffles are therefore even more problematic than usual.
  • And this one has its own particular problems, as we see.
  • The headlines after next week's moves, if they happen, will be all about women.
  • But when it comes to backbench reaction, keep your eye on those men.

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