Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Going after the 1922 Committee again

Readers of this blog will recall that very soon after the General Election of May 2010, the Boy-King who did eventually become the Prime Minister, leading a Coalition government nobody had voted for, showed that one of the most important things on his agenda was an attempt to exert control over the backbenchers' organization, the 1922 Committee. (Here, here and here.)

He lost that battle so now he and his minions have decided to undermine it, using other methods. Claiming that it is nothing but a grumbling post and a completely ineffective one at that, the "modernising 301 Group will be running a slate in an attempt to oust the Tory old guard". The Cameroonie hacks have been primed.

Among them is a youthful hackette, hitherto unknown to me, called Donata Huggins who "writes about politics and life in the Westminster village" in the Daily Torygraph and does so very badly.

In her article on the subject of the 1922 Committee and the attempt to subvert it, she commits the cardinal sin of telling her readers that this is a story because the Guardian is reporting it. Does she not know the scuttlebutt herself?

She then adds in her easily imitable way:
The Committee is currently run by a group of mostly cantankerous old farts who do little to further Right-wing ideas in Britain. Just last week they stirred up a fight with the Government on Lords reform. Just imagine if that brought down the Coalition? Not unemployment or economic growth: the things that matter to their constituents, but reform of a place many see as a retirement home for politicians. The Conservatives shouldn't allow Ed Miliband's repetition of "out of touch Tories" to ring true.
And ends the article with the words that fall somewhat short of Wildean with or Bagehot-like profundity:
Put simply, Right-wingers need to chill out and realise that they'll be more effective if they act like they're all in it together.
This, gentle readers, is the standard of the modern Daily Torygraph.

Other media outlets also reported the proposed coup. The Spectator, another Cameroonie rag thought that it was a fuss about not much at all. According to James Forsyth, who is also anxious to show that this is all about modernisation,
Also included on the list are two Cornish MPs, George Eustice and Sheryll Murray, who tried to block the so-called pasty tax. The intention is to show that while the slate is broadly supportive of the leadership and wants a Tory majority at the next election it is made up of people who will tell the Prime Minister when they think he is wrong.
If this slate succeeds, and I expect it will given both its voting weight in the party and its relatively modest aims, it will remove those who have used their position on the ’22 to campaign against the leadership. But the far harder challenge for it will be, as Tim Montgomerie says, to give the ’22 more of a campaigning focus.
One other thing worth noting is that these elections will vastly increase the standing of the ’22. The fact that the new intake are competing so vigorously for posts on it means that the likes of Louise Mensch can no longer dismiss it as an outdated body that does not speak for them.
Whether a 1922 Committee that is entirely in the pocket of the leadership and whose members will be allowed to show phony dissidence by opposing some unimportant measure while certain subjects like the European Union will be off the agenda, will really increase its standing is very doubtful.

Tim Montgomerie is cautiously in favour and thinks this is an attempt to rebalance the Committee in favour of the 2010 intake, which would, in his opinion, push aside a great deal of parliamentary experience. That may well be the aim of the exercise. Get the younger and less experienced lot in and it will be easier to control them. They might not stand up against bullying the way the Committee stood up to it in 2010. It is also useful to add that, despite all the predictions, the 2010 intake is extremely loyal to the leadership and will not do much against it.

Craig Woodhouse in the Evening Standard writes in that vein as well:
The new generation of Tory MPs was accused of being “government patsies” today as they launched a bid to revolutionise the party’s key backbench committee.
A group of broadly pro-leadership MPs took the unusual step of announcing a slate of candidates — mainly from the 2010 intake — they want to succeed in next month’s internal elections to the 1922 Committee.
The reason this election is happening, incidentally, is that next week will see the long-delayed opening of the new session of Parliament with the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, May 9. Though what exactly the extra-long session has achieved remains a mystery.


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  2. What is your assessment of the skills of Penny Mordaunt (she is named as an opponent of Lords reform in the Forsyth column)?

    I had read the offending Telegraph article in question yesterday, and thought it a very unappealing analysis; now I know why!

  3. Penny Mordaunt? "Voted strongly for more EU integration"



  4. Thanks, Clarence. I did not have time to look it up. She may, I suppose, be an opponent to the Lords reform, which is going to be the Boy-King's anti-hunting bill, but she is clearly one of those who does not want the 1922 Committee to talk about "Europe".