Widely touted beforehand as a way to diversify her front bench, Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle has been slammed as a shambles by her own MPs as well as the Tory-leaning press.

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt, under pressure over a winter NHS crisis, refused to budge when he was asked to become business secretary, which is effectively a demotion.

Then education secretary Justine Greening refused to move to the work and pensions portfolio and so quit the cabinet altogether, raising the prospect that she will join Remain-supporting Tory MPs on the backbenches as a thorn in the prime minister's side.

Also, the Tories tweeted that the transport secretary Chris Grayling had been given the post of Conservative party chairman, replacing Sir Patrick McLoughlin.

But this tweet was corrected seconds later and former immigration minister Brandon Lewis ended up getting the job.

One Tory MP told the assistant editor of the Spectator, Isabel Hardman, how it was the "worst reshuffle I have ever witnessed in any party ever. None of it makes sense. It's sabotage. I think someone's trying to destroy her on the inside. I can't think of a less dramatic reason," the MP said according to a tweet by Hardman.

The day had started with so much promise. May had been expected to shake up her cabinet by appointing more women and ethnic minorities, but the blunders raised the ire of MPs as any hopes of positive headlines from her first major reshuffle evaporated.

Although the reshuffle will continue into Tuesday (9 January), no new female or minority ministers have been brought into Cabinet, not one minister has been sacked and no senior minister has changed jobs.

One serving minister told the Telegraph: "It's the reshuffle that never was, it's bizarre. It just looks weak."

Theresa May
Theresa May has been criticised for the cabinet reshuffle Getty

Setting the tone for a turbulent day, the prime minister had tried to move Jeremy Hunt from his post but insiders said that he passionately argued the case for his six-year stint as health secretary and he emerged with a beefed up role of health and social care secretary. The more powerful role sets himself up as a future leadership contender.

'The operation around the PM is sh*t' - Tory backbencher

After Greening dramatically quit the frontbench in a move that Downing Street described as "disappointing", Damian Hinds found himself catapulted into the post of education secretary.

However, there is a team of young recently elected MPs that got key positions, including Nigerian-raised Kemi Badenoch, 37, who becomes party vice chairman for candidates and James Cleverly, 48, whose mother is from Sierra Leone, becomes deputy chairman.

But one backbencher summed up the mood of the party, telling the Times: "Everyone went away for Christmas and because of the Brexit deal forgot that the operation around the PM is sh*t."

Even the newspapers that normally back the prime minister and support Brexit could not muster any positive words. The Daily Mail splashed with the headline "No, prime minister", in reference to the political sitcom 'Yes, prime minister'.

The Telegraph's headline on its front page read: 'Night of the blunt stiletto', a joking reference to the night of the long knives of 1962 in which Tory prime minister Harold McMillan purged his party.