David Cameron is planning to embark on the most far-reaching reconstruction of his government next week as he promotes a new generation of women and younger men in an attempt to present a youthful and modern face of the Tory party to Britain at next year’s general election.
A series of older men known as the “old lags” will be sacked – or will take matters into their own hands by announcing long-planned retirements – when the prime minister carries out his final planned cabinet reshuffle before the election.
The most senior Tory cabinet ministers – George Osborne, William Hague and Theresa May – are expected to remain in place as Cameron becomes the first prime minister since Tony Blair in 1997-2001 to keep the holders of the great offices of state in place for an entire parliament.
But a much wider than expected cabinet reshuffle will see significant changes amid signs that the former chancellor Kenneth Clarke, 74, the chief whip, Sir George Young, 73 on Wednesday, and the leader of the Commons, Andrew Lansley, 57, will leave the government.
Lansley still believes that he is in the running to be nominated as Britain’s European commissioner, although there are strong voices saying it would be a grave mistake to appoint the man so closely associated with the government’s unpopular reorganisation of the NHS.