The reshuffle speculation level has been raised from ‘fevered’ to ‘panicked’. Guido hears that Downing Street have instructed departments not to schedule anything for a week today. This, however, could be anything from an elaborate bluff, to an unintentional display of competence. The latest chatter still says it’s going to be ladies night and whilst plenty of women MPs are expected to rise up the ranks, vivacious and pushy Esther McVey – tipped for the cabinet by many – is in fact still in the PM’s doghouse after her spectacularly unhelpful comments during the Maria Miller scandal. Penny Mordaunt, who has impressed recently, is tipped to replace Andrew Murrison at Defence.
Whilst previously Cameron has preferred tinkering reshuffles, there are some whispers of a big upheaval that could even see a job swap between Iain Duncan-Smith at Defence and Phil Hammond at Work and Pensions. Hammond is not hugely popular with the top brass, and could deploy his famed safe pair of hands at DWP, while IDS, a former military man, would be unlikely to accept any other job. Speculation about the future of Grant Shapps at CCHQ has all but died out, while Ken Clarke seems resigned to his fate. This is all rumour mill though…
Any government reshuffle will indicate that the new EU commissioner has been decided, which would point to a delay. Andrew Lansley is said to be out, Willetts has let it be known he speaks French and German, while others say Michael Howard is still worth an outside bet. Lord Howard has certainly not ruled himself out of one last big job, and the PM owes him one after Dave’s then boss delayed the 2005 leadership election to let his favoured successor get their campaign in gear. It would also avoid a messy by-election.
Some in No. 10 are anticipating that in all likelihood No. 10’s first option for Commissioner will be ‘Junck-ed’ in petty retaliation. While in the past, Downing Street have allowed reshuffle rumours to last for months, cunningly keeping everyone on best behaviour, they’re running out of time to bed in new ministers in well before the election. It’s hardly like they’re going to be legislating much, mind.