David Cameron began an overhaul of his ministerial team on Monday night, in a reshuffle that No 10 said would inject “fighting spirit” into the coalition and promote bright young ministers with a record of delivery.
Andrew Mitchell, a former army officer with strong links to the Conservative right, was confirmed as new chief whip, charged with restoring order in Mr Cameron’s increasingly restive party.
After leaving his team virtually unchanged since the 2010 election, Mr Cameron’s aides said he wanted to bring in “a new generation” capable of seeing through policies to promote growth and taking the fight to Labour. But there will be no change at the top of the cabinet or change of direction in economic policy, blunting the likely political impact of the reshuffle.
George Osborne, the chancellor – booed at the Olympic Stadium on Monday – is among those staying in their posts. William Hague, foreign secretary, Theresa May, home secretary, and Michael Gove at education are also expected to remain in place.
But the prime minister is expected to wield the knife more ruthlessly than had been anticipated. He began making the more sensitive phone calls on Monday night to break the bad news: the reshuffle will begin in earnest on Tuesday.
Lady Warsi, the Tory chairman, had pleaded to remain in her job but is expected to be replaced. There was also speculation at Westminster that Ken Clarke, the pro-European justice secretary whose ministerial career stretches back to the 1970s, was leaving his post against his will.
Justine Greening at transport, Jeremy Hunt at culture, Andrew Lansley, health secretary, and Caroline Spelman, environment, were among those awaiting calls from No 10.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, will also shake up his team, with David Laws – who resigned as Treasury chief secretary in 2010, after only weeks in the job, in an expenses scandal – expected to make a return.
Mr Cameron’s reshuffle marks a decisive moment in the parliament, as the coalition moves to what his aides call “the delivery phase” and both parties begin to gear up for the next election.
Mr Mitchell, who was international development secretary, will have a key role. He is a hardened veteran of the Tory whips’ office from the Maastricht treaty rebellions of the early 1990s but also understands the fractious Tory right, having run David Davis’s leadership campaign in 2005. Mr Davis on Monday reflected the tension on the Tory benches when he attacked Mr Osborne for failing to take “dramatic action” on the economy.
Grant Shapps, housing minister, Greg Clark, planning minister, Chris Grayling, employment minister, and Maria Miller, minister for the disabled, are among those tipped for promotion.
The shake-up will be studied for evidence of Mr Cameron tilting the balance of power to the right. But the premier’s allies said there would be no “amnesty” for stars of the 2010 intake who rebelled on Europe and House of Lords reform.