'Thrasher' Mitchell to be Chief Whip as PM seeks to freshen up Cabinet


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The Independent Online

Andrew Mitchell will become the Government's Chief Whip today when David Cameron carries out his first full-scale reshuffle.

Mr Mitchell, right, nicknamed "Thrasher" when he attended Rugby school for his strict discipline as head of a house, will move from his job as International Development Secretary. He will face a difficult task in trying to head off further rebellions by Conservative MPs, who have become increasingly critical of Mr Cameron.

Yesterday the Prime Minister's attempt to relaunch his government ran into trouble when Tory right-wingers demanded a much more radical "pro-growth" strategy and his decision to set up an independent commission to consider a third runway at Heathrow Airport came under fire.

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park, said the airports review could allow room for Mr Cameron to back a third runway.

"If we enter the next election with a manifesto which does not rule out expansion of Heathrow, I think the Conservative Party will be very badly defeated in areas beneath the flight path," he said.

Mr Cameron will try to reassert his authority today by announcing a wider than expected reshuffle as the Coalition moves into "an implementation and delivery phase". He hopes a new generation of ministers will freshen up his government.

Although the most senior ministers – George Osborne, William Hague and Theresa May – will keep their posts, middle-ranking ministers including Kenneth Clarke, Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt may be moved against their wishes. Those winning promotion to the Cabinet are likely to include Grant Shapps, the Housing minister, who is expected to become Conservative Party chairman, replacing Baroness Warsi.

David Laws, the prominent Liberal Democrat who resigned after 17 days as Chief Treasury Secretary over his parliamentary expenses, will return to the government as an Education minister with a roving brief across Whitehall.

Mr Mitchell will join the Cameron inner circle and is helping to shape the ministerial shake-up. He will replace Patrick McLoughlin, who will be promoted to the Cabinet.

Last night the Prime Minister said Mr Mitchell had done "a superb job" at the Department for International Development, where he faced criticism from Tory MPs because his budget was exempt from cuts under Mr Cameron's policy to boost overseas aid.

John Redwood, another Tory right-winger, warned that the Cabinet "faces will remain the same" after the reshuffle, so "what they are saying" on the economy had to change.