David Cameron is under pressure from Tory activists to bring back "big beasts" including Kenneth Clarke and David Davis to give his Shadow Cabinet more gravitas.
The Tory leader will consider shaking up his front-bench team in the new year as he tries to give the Opposition a sharper cutting edge on the economy. One option being canvassed in Tory circles is to offer Mr Clarke, a former chancellor, the post of shadow Business Secretary, setting up a heavyweight contest between him and Lord Mandelson.
Tory insiders believe the Shadow Cabinet needs more heavy-hitters as it tries to combat Gordon Brown's pitch as a "serious man for serious times". Appointing Mr Clarke to an economic brief would add experience to Mr Cameron's front bench, countering the Prime Minister's jibe that the Tory leader is a "novice".
Some Tory MPs also worry their frontbenchers appear "too well-fed" in difficult times. They believe the return of the beer-drinking Mr Clarke and the plain-speaking Mr Davis, who was brought up in a council house by a single mother, would address its image problem.
A survey of 1,800 Tory members by the ConservativeHome website found that 72 per cent want Mr Davis to be reappointed to the Shadow Cabinet, with 22 per cent against the idea. Some 50 per cent believe Mr Clarke should be recalled, with 41 per cent opposed.
Party members want George Osborne to stay in his post of shadow Chancellor by a margin of 55 to 31 per cent. He has recovered after a rocky patch last autumn and is expected to keep his job in the reshuffle.