By Tim Castle
LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron began a reshuffle of his cabinet on Monday that he hopes will tame rebellious politicians on his party's right and revive a recession-hit government suffering a mid-term drop in popularity.
The Conservative leader was expected to keep in place his finance and foreign ministers, George Osborne and William Hague, concentrating his firepower on a rejig of middle-ranking ministers.
But in the absence of any high-profile changes the revamp may struggle to achieve its hoped-for "reboot" of the coalition's popularity ahead of the next parliamentary elections due in 2015.
In the first confirmed change Cameron moved International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell to take charge of internal party discipline in parliament.
Mitchell, a former U.N. peacekeeper, will be tasked as "Chief Whip" with keeping in line restive Conservative backbench politicians who have already forced a U-turn over constitutional reform and want to rewrite Britain's relationship with the European Union.
Cameron, who leads a coalition government in alliance with the smaller Liberal Democrats, has seen his party's popularity fall as Britain's economy struggles to recover from the financial crisis.
In an indication of popular discontent, Osborne was booed by crowds at the Olympic Stadium in east London on Monday night when it was announced he would be presenting medals to the winners of a Paralympics race.
Osborne sparked criticism that the coalition was out of touch with ordinary people struggling in the economic downturn when he announced a budget in March that cut taxes for the richest while raising levies on the elderly.
Despite the finance minister's unpopularity, government officials say removing him from the Treasury would amount to an admission of failure of the coalition's flagship austerity plans and potentially alienate one of Cameron's closest allies.
It would also create uncertainty on financial markets about the direction of Britain's economic policies at a time when the government is clinging to its triple-A credit rating.
(Editing by Peter Graff)