British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announced a shuffling of her government late Wednesday designed to pave the way for Conservative Party success in the next general election. She ordered a shakeup of her government's middle ranks, strengthened the upper reaches of the Conservative Party, and is preparing for a fresh round of international travel to draw attention to her role as a major world leader.
The shuffle involves no changes in her Cabinet. But big changes in middle-level appointments aim at giving the government a more pronounced right-wing slant and convincing the electorate that, if the Tories are returned to power, there will be plenty of younger talent available to move up to Cabinet jobs.
Mrs. Thatcher does not have to call an election until mid-1988, but it is thought likely that she will go to the polls earlier than that -- possibly in October of next year. This means that she has to give a fresh look to her government now, ensure that the party machine is operating smoothly, and project herself as a decisive and high-profile leader.
A recent opinion poll provides cause for concern. It shows that the opposition Labour Party has the backing of 40 percent of the electorate, compared to 34 percent for the ruling Conservatives.
Among the most important government changes she has ordered are those in education, a sensitive political area for the Conservatives. She has left her recently appointed and somewhat liberal education secretary, Kenneth Baker, in place, but given him two obviously right-wing ministerial assistants and dropped a number of junior and middle-ranking ministers who have failed to project government policy to the public effectively.