By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter
Yesterday I set out four strategic objectives for David Cameron's looming reshuffle. Tomorrow Matthew Barrett will nominate ten MPs from the class of 2010 who deserve and/or are likely to get promotion. Today I offer some random thoughts on some of the key people linked to reshuffle speculation.
Starting with the top three jobs in the PM's gift. George Osborne, William Hague and Theresa May. We know that the Chancellor's job is safe. I don't expect the Foreign or Home Secretaries to move either.
Further down the pecking order a betting man shouldn't put money on Clarke, Duncan Smith, Greening, Gove, Hammond, Hunt, Lansley, Letwin, Maude or Pickles moving either. I still hope Gove might go to CCHQ but don't expect it. Lansley looks like he's safe for at least one more year. Pete wrote an appreciation of the Health Secretary on Sunday and some evidence that his reforms are winning more support from key professions. Clarke may choose to go but the PM relies on his experienced advice and he recently became a member of the Cabinet's inner seven. Clarke and IDS recently formed an unusual alliance in successfully urging Cameron not to whip the programme motion on Lords reform. Culture Secretary Hunt's position has been strengthened by the Olympics but the pre-Murdochgate talk of a promotion is very unlikely. Greening is a good outside bet for Party Chairman but my understanding is that she's keen to finish the work she's only just begun at Transport and that department certainly could do without another ministerial merry-go-round. In yesterday's Boris Johnson interview with the Evening Standard the Mayor poured praise on Ms Greening and effectively outed her as a supporter of the Thames Estuary Airport.
I don't think Sayeeda Warsi will stay as Chairman. I hope not… although I hope she stays in Cabinet. Michael Fallon, Justine Greening or most likely Grant Shapps may replace her. At the same time Andrew Feldman should become Chief Executive of the Party (with responsibilities to chair the Party Board) so that the office of Party Chairman is restored to its traditional status.
I suspect there'll be at least three departures from Cabinet, the Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, the Leader of the Commons Sir George Young and the Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin. A fourth possibility might be the rain goddess Caroline Spelman. If Cameron opts for a long knives reshuffle so that he can freshen his team with a large number of new faces (five) David Willetts could also be vulnerable. Thinking of the three likeliest to go… Ms Gillan has performed well but she's an opponent of HS2 and ideally the Welsh Secretary should represent a Welsh seat. Yesterday I nominated Stephen Crabb to succeed her. Sir George Young has been a brilliant Leader of the House, popular on all sides (and in the ConHome Cabinet rankings) and an innovator (eg online petitions and backbench power). He may simply fall victim to Cameron's need to have room to promote new talent. Patrick McLoughlin has had the impossible job of whipping a very large and independent-minded parliamentary party during the exceptional circumstances of coalition government. He's formed a very good relationship with his LibDem opposite number and is popular across the party but whipping probably needs to look a lot more like a personnel department and less like a military command structure and a new Chief Whip might be best placed to deliver a big culture shift.
I love Matt d'Ancona's writing but I thought he gave poor advice to Cameron in yesterday's Evening Standard. Of course Cameron needs to promote competent minsters but he also needs to ensure his top team represents all of his party. It's a bit monocultural at present and all habitats are more likely to thrive with ecological/political diversity. A bigger role for Owen Paterson (perhaps at DEFRA) would help achieve more ideological balance. I'd also promote people like Chris Grayling, John Hayes (whose work on apprenticeships is one of the Coalition's outstanding successes) or Graham Brady.
In terms of junior ministers who've performed well in their briefs and are knocking at the door of the Cabinet any list must include Greg Clark, Nick Herbert, Maria Miller and Grant Shapps.
If Owen Paterson moves upwards then David Lidington might take his place at the Northern Ireland Office. William Hague would resist losing his Europe Minister, however, worrying that the links to EU leaders that Mr Lidington has built up during two gruelling years of travelling across the Continent would be lost. Installing a more Eurosceptic Europe Minister like Mark Francois, Greg Hands, Chris Heaton-Harris or Theresa Villiers – while appealing to Tory backbenchers – risks upsetting Nick Clegg (as well as Mr Clarke).
Expect a good number of middle ranking ministers to be chopped. Henry Bellingham, Crispin Blunt, Simon Burns, Jonathan Djanogly, Gerald Howarth, Mark Prisk, Andrew Robathan and Hugo Swire are amongst the vulnerable. Room needs to be created to promote some of the 2010 intake but also some of the MPs who served on the opposition frontbench but didn't make it to the government frontbench. This includes David Burrowes, Stephen Hammond, Mark Simmonds and Ben Wallace. I'd also tip Lee Scott for the Whip's Office.
Cameron doesn't of course have much say over LibDem ministers but expect Laws to return but to where? Ideally it would be as Business Secretary but where could you put Vince Cable? More significantly what would Vince Cable accept in order to avoiding fox-trotting out of the Cabinet? The obvious LibDem to drop is Scottish Secretary Michael Moore but Laws won't be suited to replace him there. Tricky things these reshuffles.