Wirral West MP Esther McVey is being tipped for a top job today as the Prime Minister reshuffles his Cabinet.

David Cameron is expected to promote a host of younger talent, including some of the stars of the 2010 intake.

Those tipped for advancement include employment minister Ms McVey, education minister Liz Truss and ministerial aide Penny Mordaunt.

William Hague has quit as foreign secretary and will leave the Commons next year as David Cameron wielded the axe to clear the way for a new generation to take places.

Former Tory leader Mr Hague will replace Andrew Lansley as Leader of the Commons and lead the Conservative campaign in key constituencies, particularly in northern England, until he gives up his safe seat in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

The Prime Minister said Mr Hague had been one of the Conservative Party's "leading lights" for a generation and had been a "close confidante, wise counsellor and great friend".

The shock announcement follows the widely expected decision by Ken Clarke to retire at 74, ending a career in government stretching back to 1972.

Veteran MP Sir George Young also resigned as chief whip, creating another Cabinet-level position for Mr Cameron to fill.

The vacancy at the Foreign Office will be a plum job for Mr Cameron to allocate, but there are also a number of other spots at the Cabinet table and in the lower ministerial ranks for him to award to rising stars as he refreshes his team before the 2015 general election.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister also accepted the resignations of universities minister David Willetts and energy and climate change minister Greg Barker, who will both stand down as MPs next year.

Andrew Robathan quit as a minister in the Northern Ireland Office, while news of Hugh Robertson's resignation from the Foreign Office filtered through while he was on an overseas trip in Beirut.

In a reshuffle which has been much wider than expected, David Jones was sacked as Welsh Secretary, with reports suggesting his deputy Stephen Crabb was in line for the job.

Dominic Grieve was reported to have lost his job as Attorney General and Owen Paterson was rumoured to be heading to the exit as Environment Secretary despite a rearguard effort by allies to keep him in office.

Nick Hurd said he was leaving his post as minister for civil society and policing minister Damian Green was reported to be leaving his job.

The Prime Minister is expected to take the opportunity to promote fresh faces, including female MPs to his team and the surprise departure of Mr Hague creates an opportunity to appoint someone to one of the Great Offices of State for the first time since 2010, with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond rumoured to be in line for the role.

Senior sources dismissed speculation that Chancellor George Osborne could be moved to the Foreign Office, with government insiders insisting he was focused on the economic recovery.