, LONDON, Sept 4 – British Prime Minister David Cameron reshuffled his ailing coalition government on Tuesday, but kept unpopular finance minister George Osborne and foreign minister William Hague in their jobs.
While most of the cabinet big hitters emerged unscathed, Cameron promoted culture minister Jeremy Hunt, who has battled calls to resign over his closeness to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, to the health ministry.
Addressing one of the pressing issues in his in-tray as parliament returns to work after the summer break, Cameron sacked transport minister Justine Greening, who was seen as blocking the expansion of Heathrow airport.
Greening becomes international development minister while Patrick McLoughlin takes over her transport brief, as the government faces increasingly urgent calls for an expansion of airport capacity in London.
In his first reshuffle since the coalition government came to power two years ago, Cameron sought to rejuvenate the Conservative Party element in the cabinet with an eye on the next general election in 2015.
The veteran Ken Clark, a former finance minister, was removed from the justice minister’s job and given a roving role as a “wise head” in government.
Cameron has moved a trusted lieutenant, Andrew Mitchell, from International Development Secretary to become chief whip, the government’s enforcer for parliamentary business.
It will be Mitchell’s job to crush the sort of in-party dissent that Cameron faced over the summer, with one senior backbencher challenging the prime minister to prove whether he was “man or mouse” over the Heathrow issue.
Theresa Villiers was promoted from a junior transport role to become minister for Northern Ireland, where two nights of rioting in Belfast has left more than 60 police injured.
But Cameron has resisted calls to remove Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who was roundly booed at the 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in east London on Monday when he presented athletics medals at the Paralympics.