David Cameron has upset members of his frontbench team by preparing to promote more women to the Shadow Cabinet in a reshuffle expected this week.
The reshuffle is designed to expose Gordon Brown's prevarication over his own cabinet shake-up, long awaited but now unlikely to happen before autumn.
The Conservative leader is considering giving senior roles to Justine Greening, a junior shadow Treasury minister, whose capture of Putney from Labour was one of the few Tory successes of the 2005 election.
Maria Miller, a member of shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove's team, is also expected to be elevated to the top table. The Tory leader has pledged that a third of his ministers in any future Tory government would be female.
More experienced male shadow ministers complain that Mr Cameron is overlooking their talents to fulfil his promise on positive discrimination. One said: "David should be careful not to upset things too much, just because we are so far ahead in the polls."
The top three jobs, shadow Foreign Secretary, Chancellor and Home Secretary, are unlikely to change. But there are rumours that Peter Ainsworth and David Willetts may be axed to make way for more women.
The anticipated changes comes as a ComRes poll for the IoS today shows the Tory lead over Labour has lengthened by three points to 21 points. Support for Labour, put at 24 per cent, is the lowest ever recorded by ComRes, which began polling for the IoS in 2004.
The survey also found more people believed the Tories would tackle knife crime better than Labour could. ComRes interviewed 1,016 British adults by telephone on 16 and 17 July.
Despite the Tories' apparently strong position, Mr Cameron is believed to want to freshen his team. Greg Clark and Ed Vaizey, two MPs close to Mr Cameron, have long been expected to enter the Shadow Cabinet. And Jeremy Hunt, a rising star, could be moved from Culture to replace Peter Ainsworth at Environment.
Although the Prime Minister is being urged to promote new faces in his reshuffle, his weakened leadership means he is wary of sacking or demoting Alistair Darling or Jacqui Smith, despite difficulties over the economy and knife crime.
The Northern Ireland, Secretary Shaun Woodward, is tipped for promotion as is Home Office minister Liam Byrne. Paul Murphy, Des Browne and Ruth Kelly are expected to be eased out altogether.Reuse content