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UK cabinet reshuffle imminent

British Prime Minister David Cameron

LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to reshuffle his cabinet early next month, hoping fresh faces will appease his party’s restive right and reboot a government half way through a recession-hit term.

Britain’s dismal economic performance has triggered calls for Cameron to replace finance minister George Osborne with Foreign Secretary William Hague – a move which could give cover for a softening of Cameron’s flagship austerity plans.

But few expect any thunderbolts in the shake up and Cameron’s first planned reshuffle may struggle to make a lasting impression on his diminished popularity ahead of the next parliamentary election in 2015.

Insiders say he is more likely to focus on filling more junior posts with supporters and figures popular with grassroots members of his Conservative party.

Westminster sources point to no change at the Treasury, the Foreign Office or interior ministry, reflecting the need for stability during an economic crisis and Cameron’s fear of alienating his party’s more dominant figures.

Cameron’s hands are tied to some extent by the realities of life in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, who require a certain number of cabinet posts and must be kept on side to ensure the partnership survives.

A big sweep out would create more problems than it solved.

Removing Osborne would humiliate one of Cameron’s closest allies and risk the emergence of a lightning rod for opposition.

It would also be read as an admission of failure in economic policy and unsettle financial markets at a time when Britain is clinging to its top notch credit rating by a thread.

A new chairman plucked from the populist heart of the party could help convince doubters Cameron was a “true blue” Conservative. (Reuters)

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