The support of Lord Archer, a friend of both John Major and Baroness Thatcher, will strengthen the likelihood of members of the 1992 intake being promoted, but would be seen as a right-wing shift by the Prime Minister.
The promotion hopefuls are dominated by Parliamentary Private Secretaries, the unpaid aides to ministers, who came into politics in the 1980s under Lady Thatcher's influence.
'The Prime Minister would be foolish to go for seniority, rather than quality. He needs to freshen up the look of the Government. The only way he can do that is by putting young blood into the lower and middle ranks,' a member of the 1992 intake said. But promoting them would anger MPs from the 1987 intake.
The timing of the reshuffle is secret, but senior party sources said John Major was preparing to upstage the 'coronation' of Tony Blair by holding the reshuffle on 18 July, three days before the election of the new Labour leader. The MPs named by Lord Archer on LWT's Crosstalk programme include: David Willetts, Michael Trend, Liam Fox, Angela Knight, David Lidington, John Whittingdale, Edward Garnier, Gary Streeter, Nigel Evans, Jonathan Evans, David Faber, and Peter Luff.
Options being discussed inside the Department of Health include Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, moving to Environment to replace John Gummer, and Brian Mawhinney moving to the Treasury as Chief Secretary in charge of public spending, replacing Michael Portillo, who would be moved. Tipped to replace them are Stephen Dorrell, a Treasury minister, as Secretary of State for Health; and Eric Forth, a right-wing junior education minister.
The whips believe the lower ranks will be easier to fill because of the lack of stars among the existing under-secretaries of state.
A minister for youth is called for today by John Blashford-Snell, founder of Operations Raleigh and Drake, and Julian Brazier, the Tory MP for Canterbury, in a pamphlet published by the Tory Bow Group.