After addressing the 1922 Committee this evening, David Cameron will be holding a reception at Number 10 for the good MPs who obeyed the whips and made the requisite number of visits to the Newark by-election. One of the carrots that was dangled in front of MPs as they trundled up to Patrick Mercer’s old constituency was the prospect of a reshuffle. Comments such as ‘senior party figures will be observing how many times each of you visits’ were dropped into conversations and emails. Some MPs showed me the sarky replies they drafted which involved imaginative suggestions for the whips about what they could do with their league table of campaigning MPs, but the reshuffle was for some a sufficient reason not to send those replies. Others were held back by a desire to maintain the positive mood in the party.
Milling around at the reception this evening will be some MPs who hope very much that their three gold stars for Newark will make a difference in the reshuffle. But the rumours today that it could be delayed again suggest the PM would like to keep that incentive for good behaviour hanging over his party for a little longer.