David Cameron is planning a wide-ranging government reshuffle in March to "buy off" Eurosceptic Tory MPs ahead of a possible new rebellion over an EU referendum.
Ministers are poised for a major cabinet shake-up which will be the first opportunity the PM has had to undertake a full reshuffle since the coalition was formed in May 2010.
But the shake-up is also expected to extend across junior government posts and will be an opportunity for Mr Cameron to win over MPs on the right of his party who have felt overlooked for promotion. The timing is planned to coincide with an EU summit at which European leaders will thrash out a new treaty that could form the focus of a fresh revolt in the Commons.
Last October, Mr Cameron suffered a revolt by 81 of his MPs over calls for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU. Many of those MPs were angry at the mini-reshuffle earlier that month, which included the controversial promotion of Chloe Smith, 29, who had entered Parliament in 2009, as Economic Secretary to the Treasury.
Tory backbenchers returning to Westminster this week remain jubilant at the Prime Minister's veto at last month's EU summit, but are holding out the prospect of defying the whip again in the Commons in March.
As the issue of Europe returns to test coalition harmony, Nick Clegg will host a summit of European Liberal Democrat leaders and European Commissioners in London tomorrow to discuss the new EU treaty.Reuse content