Who would get into a Cameron Cabinet of twenty?
In demoting Alan Duncan earlier this week David Cameron displayed his ruthless side. Mr Cameron has again and again shown that he has the necessary steel to be a strong and determined leader.
Bigger and harder personnel decisions lie ahead and The Telegraph suggests that the shadow cabinet of 32 may be reduced to a Cabinet of just 20. Given that Mr Cameron may bring in a few 'greybeards' from outside it could be that more than 12 of the current shadow cabinet do not sit in the first Conservative Cabinet of the 21st century. The Telegraph's Andrew Porter speculates that "at least 30 current shadow ministers and spokesman could find themselves on the backbenches and not taking a ministerial portfolio." That's potentially a lot of unhappy MPs.
It is certainly true that the size of the Cabinet has grown under Brown. His 23-strong team ("strong" may not be the right word) is the largest Cabinet in history. It is 50% bigger than the average for the last century. Listed below is the current shadow cabinet (including their latest ratings by grassroots members) and in 'hot pink' the members likeliest to get to the real thing.
- A Cabinet without Eric Pickles or David Willetts would be a lot weaker. I wouldn't advise it.
- There are only two women in 'my' Cabinet of twenty. I can't see that happening.
- Cameron is also likely to bring in one or two 'greybeards'. Perhaps Peter Lilley, James Arbuthnot, Michael Howard. There's also Iain Duncan Smith and David Davis.
- Andrew Mitchell would not have been in my list a year ago but is now seen as a real success at international development.
- Question marks continue to hang over Liam Fox's future but my guess is that he represents too important a part of the conservative coalition to go.
In short - cutting the shadow cabinet to a Cabinet of twenty is a very, very tough ask.