After a few weeks of Boris vs George, Conservatives are now starting to gossip about something a little more immediate: a post-European elections reshuffle. I understand that the Prime Minister is currently experiencing concerted lobbying from many ministers and backbenchers to remove Baroness Warsi from her post as ‘senior minister of state’ after her decision to wave about a front page on the ‘Eton Mess’ in Number 10 on ITV’s The Agenda a few weeks ago. There was fury at a senior level in the Conservative party about Warsi’s behaviour: she was punching her party’s bruise on class. One minister says: ‘She should be dropped down a hole and a lid put on the top. She knew what she was doing, she’s not naive.’ Others are furious that she seems to repeatedly get away with behaviour that would land a humble backbencher in hot water, let alone a minister (or indeed a ‘senior minister of state’, which was a title invented just for Warsi).
Warsi did not receive the same ‘right royal bollocking’ from the Prime Minister that Michael Gove did for his FT interview, even though Warsi’s intervention was arguably more deliberate. But I hear the reason she wasn’t scolded by the PM was that he may just dispense with her at the reshuffle, if he dares. He’ll have to have nerves of steel to do so, though, as he and his allies are acutely aware of the trouble she could cause if she does leave the government. But some senior Tories are reasonably confident that this time David Cameron really will sack Warsi.
It’s worth reading Iain Dale’s excellent diary on ConHome this morning with other rumours about who could move. He suggests that Andrew Lansley could leave the government in the shuffle. Some insiders still think Lansley could get the European Commissioner job. Ken Clarke is another figure who may well leave – and be quite happy to do so – in favour of a younger (and possibly female) face. That younger new face could be a eurosceptic, too, as Clarke’s roving brief touches on European reform: it would be cheering for backbenchers to see someone hungry to help renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Europe.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.