Ladies' day at Downing St as Cameron shuffles deck
DAVID Cameron last night completed his boldest-ever reshuffle as he promoted a "fresh team" of women and Eurosceptics that he believes will win the Conservatives the General Election.
In a series of moves designed to win back disaffected voters who have fled to the UK Independence Party and to present a softer image of the party, Mr Cameron promoted 10 women in a day which saw 40 new appointments.
The British Prime Minister described his new top team as one which "reflects modern Britain" and added: "This is a fresh team with the ideas, the energy, the policy and the ability to take this country forward."
However, in a sign that the Tory leader is willing to be ruthless ahead of the General Election, he removed Michael Gove, his close friend and ally, from the Cabinet.
In a shake-up that took observers by surprise with its scope, Mr Cameron shifted key ally Michael Gove from Education Secretary to chief whip – ordering him to act as "minister for TV".
A series of established figures were culled in favour of women – with the highest profile casualty Owen Paterson losing his environment brief to Liz Truss.
Mr Cameron and Mr Gove both dismissed speculation that he had been demoted, despite unions expressing glee after he lost his status as a full Cabinet member and took a £30,000 (€37,910) pay cut.
Mr Cameron said: "This is a fresh team with the ideas, the energy, the policy and the ability to take this country forward, to complete the long-term economic plan and secure our future.
"I think it is a team that reflects modern Britain and it is by reflecting all of modern Britain that we will get the best for our country.
"I am proud of the fact that great talent has come through the Conservative ranks and we now see Conservative women occupying posts like home secretary, education secretary, agriculture secretary, development secretary – vital jobs with really good people doing those jobs to secure the future of this country. I am very proud of that."
Mr Cameron promoted Philip Hammond from defence to become foreign secretary, in an appointment Eurosceptic Tories hope will help ward off the electoral threat from Ukip.
Nearly one in three of the Conservative ministers who can attend the Cabinet are now women, after the biggest reshuffle since Mr Cameron became prime minister. Tory sources said that there were now more women and mothers in the Cabinet than in any previous Tory government.
The bulk promotion of women MPs will allow Mr Cameron to claim that he has gone some way to delivering on a pre-election pledge to promote more female Tories.
Mr Cameron has been frequently taunted by Labour over his pledge in 2009 that one third of his ministers would be women by 2015.
He told MPs: "If elected, by the end of our first Parliament I want a third of all my ministers to be female." To meet this target Mr Cameron would have needed to appoint 41 female ministers. After the reshuffle there are just 19 women Tory ministers. Female Tory MPs who were promoted to the Cabinet were Nicky Morgan, the Education secretary, and Elizabeth Truss, the Environment secretary. Tina Stowell, the new Leader of the House of Lords, is also given a seat at the Cabinet table. Mr Hammond described the promotion of more women to the Cabinet as a "work in progress".
He said: "You have to grow talent in parliament from the bottom up. We've got lots of extremely talented women in the Conservative Party, many of them now in ministerial roles.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)