British PM begins government reshuffle
LONDON – British Prime Minister David Cameron is set to reshuffle his ailing government on Tuesday, but with unpopular finance minister George Osborne expected to keep his job despite continued economic gloom.
In his first move since MPs returned following the summer break, Cameron on Monday began the reshuffle by moving Andrew Mitchell from International Development Secretary to chief whip, the government's enforcer during parliamentary votes.
But the premier resisted calls to remove Osborne, who was roundly booed at the 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in east London on Monday night when presenting athletics medals at the Paralympics.
Foreign Secretary William Hague and Home Secretary Theresa May are also expected to survive despite the coalition government's dwindling popularity, reports suggested.
Explaining his decision to move Mitchell, Cameron said: "Andrew has done a superb job as Britain's development secretary. He has made British development policy transparent, focused and highly effective.
"As chief whip, Andrew will ensure strong support for our radical legislative programme, by working hard to win the argument in the Commons as well as playing a big role in the No 10 team.
"He will be invaluable as the government embarks on the next, vital phase of its mission to restore our economy to growth and reform our public services."
The Conservatives are in coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats, led by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has faced questions from within his own party about his leadership.
During the parliamentary holiday, Cameron has faced unrest from within his own centre-right Conservative Party, with one former minister asking whether he was "man or mouse."
It will be the first proper reshuffle of Cameron's government since the May 2010 general election that brought him to office.
Cameron cancelled Tuesday's scheduled cabinet meeting in order to deal with the reshuffle.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday newspaper, Cameron vowed to "cut through the dither" and breathe new life into the nation's recession-mired economy with a series of new initiatives in this parliamentary term.
He also pledged that he would continue reining in Britain's deficit amid the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
Cameron's official spokesman refused to comment on the timing or content of the reshuffle, widely commented on in newspapers on Monday and expected to involve cabinet members as well as junior ministers.
The prime minister was widely reported to be bringing back Liberal Democrat David Laws, who was forced to resign in 2010 due to a row over his expenses.
A YouGov poll in The Sunday Times newspaper put support for the Conservatives at 35 per cent, centre-left Labour at 41 per cent, the Liberal Democrats at nine per cent and other parties at 14 per cent.
Some 60 per cent thought Cameron was doing badly as prime minister, while 67 per cent thought the coalition was working together badly.AFP