Two leading Conservative women are being tipped to enter the Cabinet in David Cameron’s final planned reshuffle before the next election.
Senior sources have named the Treasury minister, Nicky Morgan, and the employment minister, Esther McVey, as the main contenders for promotion when Mr Cameron makes final changes to his top team this summer.
The reshuffle could take place as soon as next week following the Newark by-election and the D-Day commemorations in France which the Prime Minister will attend on Friday.
Ms Morgan, who was given government responsibility for women following the resignation of Maria Millar, has impressed both Tory whips and George Osborne since first being promoted from the back benches last year. She already attends Cabinet and is likely to be made a full member with her own department in the reshuffle.
Also in line for promotion is Ms McVey – who has the distinct advantage of coming from the North of England and being a woman in a party struggling to attract both those kind of voters.
The former television presenter, who has had a testing time defending the Government’s “bedroom tax” policy, is expected to be rewarded – either replacing Andrew Lansley as Leader of the House or running a spending department.
Mr Lansley is expected to stand down in the reshuffle along with the Chief Whip, Sir George Young, and Ken Clarke, minister without portfolio. Although none of the top jobs in government are expected to change hands there could be significant movement in the lower ranks of the Cabinet.
Among those also thought to be vulnerable are the party chairman, Grant Shapps, and the Welsh Secretary, David Jones. Mr Shapps is understood to have a difficult relationship with the Tories’ election strategist Lynton Crosby – who is an important figure advising Mr Cameron.
There was speculation at the weekend that Eric Pickles could be brought in to replace Mr Shapps as party chairman to “take on Ukip” at the next election. Mr Pickles was seen to have done well in that job in the run-up to the last election. However, others have suggested that Mr Pickles might also leave Government altogether to make way for fresh faces.
Among other changes, the Conservative whip Greg Hands has been tipped to take over as Chief Whip following a successful period as deputy to Sir George, while the business minister, Matthew Hancock, is likely to have to wait for promotion.
* Nigel Farage promised tax cuts and a grammar school “in every town” today as he sought to broaden Ukip’s appeal. He confirmed that the party’s previous commitment to abolish national insurance and have a flat 31 per cent tax rate was being “re-thought” – but said he believed the top band should fall from 45 per cent to 40 per cent.