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Political Look Ahead - Reshuffle Speculation Ramps Up

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ED MILIBAND DAVID CAMERON
Cameron and Miliband could both find themselves swapping their team around in the coming days | PA

We were already speculating a lot about a potential reshuffle in David Cameron's cabinet, now Peter Hain's resignation as shadow Welsh secretary has ramped up the speculation and gossip that Ed Miliband is about to move his team around, too.

It'd be a surprise if Miliband were to move his most senior shadow ministers. Taking Ed Balls out of his Treasury brief seems unthinkable; Balls' currency is high at the moment since many of his economic predictions over the past couple of years have come to pass. Equally Yvette Cooper serves as a good foil for Theresa May at the despatch box as shadow home secretary - she talks the talk and has held the Home Office to close account over Abu Qatada. And where else would you put her?

Moving Chuka Umunna out of Business Innovation and Skills brief would be harsh. Although he was seen as being over-promoted when he was picked to shadow Vince Cable, he's growing into the job. Andy Burnham comes across as an effective shadow health secretary who seems highly engaged in what he's doing. And as a former health secretary in the Brown government he knows the brief inside out (including where the bodies are buried).

chris bryant

Chris Bryant, a fierce watchdog of Theresa May And Jeremy Hunt

It looks more likely that in the short term there'll be a very limited shadow cabinet reshuffle, with someone coming into replace Hain at the top. On the assumption that the Welsh brief should be done by someone with Welsh connections the three favourites would be Chris Bryant - currently shadow immigration minister, Kevin Brennan, a highly capable MP currently working on the Business brief, or as a wildcard Owen Smith, who's already done work on the Welsh brief for Labour but who currently works in Ed Balls' treasury team.

kevin brennan

All-round nice guy Kevin Brennan

All three hold Welsh seats. Bryant is the more experienced but a lot of people are throwing their weight behind Smith.

Elsewhere there's been a lot of speculation that Liam Byrne could be leaving the shadow cabinet. It would be nice to see either Angela Eagle or Rachel Reeves given promotions but although some are calling for a major shake-up of the Labour front bench, most expect a limited reshuffle sometime in the next day or so, with a more widespread overhaul taking place later in the year.

Meanwhile over on the Tory side there's still a lot of confusion about when a cabinet reshuffle could take place, and how big a switch-around there might be.

The latest gossip (and that's all it is) is that Cheryl Gillan has been told her job is safe as Welsh secretary. Apart from some niggling over High Speed 2 she tends to keep her head down. Theresa May appears to have survived the Abu Qatada furore, even though it's obvious she messed up the date of his arrest last month.

It's difficult to get rid of Vince Cable when he called out the Murdochs 18 months ago and is now seen as vindicated, but Ken Clarke is looking absolutely nackered and increasingly a haunting figure from Tory governments past. Putting him out to pasture and replacing him with policing minister Nick Herbert would seem like an easy and obvious fit.

Cameron has been told that Iain Duncan Smith won't do any other job than DWP, we're told, so it's difficult to move him, but Caroline Spelman is seen as a fairly useless Environment Secretary and Andrew Mitchell is said to be fairly bored over at DfID.

The rumours about Baroness Warsi change every single day. Last week the prevailing view was she'd end up getting Environment, the latest is she's on the verge of chucking it all in and going back to Dewesbury and returning to legal practice!

At the moment it's looking more likely that there'll be a big switch among junior Tory ministers, but again there are problems wherever you look. People have speculated that Mark Harper could move from constitutional reform to Health, but who would help Nick Clegg gets Lords Reform through the Commons? Harper makes no secret that he thinks he's capable of taking on a bigger beast than Lords reform, but can they afford to lose him?

The timetables for the reshuffles keep changing too - Miliband will have to make at least some moves either on Monday or Tuesday. Cameron can afford to wait for Jeremy Hunt's appearance before Leveson, most likely. Unless of course further details emerge of communications with News International lobbyists in the meantime.... if enough comes out to fatally damage Jeremy Hunt, it's not inconceivable that we'll see changes among both top teams by the end of the week.

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