Alan Duncan could join Britain’s 2 million unemployed

By Laura Miller

Shadow business secretary Alan Duncan could be the first casualty of a Conservative cabinet reshuffle rumoured for next week.

Mr Duncan has been labelled “detached” by a Cameron ally in the Times today, who claims he “sulks on the sidelines”, instead of working hard and cooperating with the rest of the shadow cabinet.

The business secretary came under fire from other Tory MP’s earlier this week for being on a skiing holiday in Switzerland while David Cameron toured Britain meeting people suffering from the economic crisis.

“Just imagine the shadow business secretary is away skiing when we are going across the country to talk to people hurt by recession,” said one.

They added, “And that, for a would-be business secretary, at a time of massive economic and business upheaval. Contrast that with Lord Mandelson who has been everywhere since his return.”

Ken Clarke, a minister during all 18 years of the Tory heyday of 1979 to 1997, is being mooted as a potential replacement for Duncan.

In the past Mr Cameron has been critical of Mr Clarke’s blanket attacks on opponents.

“The trouble with Ken’s broad-brush approach is that everyone gets spattered with paint,” he once wrote.

However Clarke is now being seen as a potentially hard-hitting asset to rival Lord Mandelson.

“Both sides – David Cameron and Ken Clarke – have a list of caveats. All we are waiting for now is for all of those boxes to be ticked,” a Tory source said today.

One of the major barriers to Clarke’s return is likely to be his stance on Europe. He is fiercely pro-European, and part of a small rebel group within the Conservatives advocating for Britain to join the Euro.