What does David Cameron need his reshuffle to do? As has been the case with every reshuffle in this Parliament, the changing of the guard, which is expected to start later today (Coffee House will have a liveblog full of the action and gossip when it all kicks off), is being billed as a ‘reshuffle of the women’. But as I explained in my post last night about the Prime Minister considering voluntary all-women shortlists, even the incredibly talented crop of female Conservative MPs can’t stop Labour billing any shuffle as a disappointment for women, which it is ready doing before any jobs have changed hands.
Cameron also needs to shore up his relations with the Eurosceptic right wing of his party. These are good at the moment but one of the PM’s flaws is a tendency to complacency: like a man who bought his wife a bouquet of carnations from the petrol station for Valentine’s Day, he can wrongly assume that very minimal efforts are sufficient to keep his backbench happy. Some rumblings last week over the European Arrest Warrant should remind him that he does not have the undying loyalty of his colleagues. Therefore any pruning of the Right from the ministerial ranks needs to be approached on a similar basis to the ‘woman problem’ so that party management doesn’t become a problem. Liam Fox, already positioning himself as a possible leader of the ‘Out’ camp on the 2017 referendum, is tipped to return for this very reason. Promoting Priti Patel would solve both the public women problem and the private party management challenge.
Finally, Cameron does not need to complicate party management further by creating another Tim Loughton situation in which a minister, surprised and furious at getting the chop , goes rogue. There is less sympathy for rabble-rousers on the backbenches this side of an election. But that won’t stop someone creating all the wrong sorts of headlines about the ‘truth about Cameron’s government’ if they wish.