Thursday, May 17, 2012

How fares the 1922 Committee?

Two weeks ago this blog mentioned that David Cameron and the Whips were once again trying to undermine the 1922 Committee, this time by putting up a slate of candidates for the Executive Committee from the 301 group, all people who can be relied upon not to rock the boat too much (and that goes for the much-lauded but ever so cautious Ms Pritti Patel).

Since then I have been told by a veteran Tory MP that while this was undoubtedly a plot by the Whips it was not going to go anywhere as long as the Cameroonie loyalists did not get any of the important positions. To be fair, Graham Brady remains Chairman and John Whittingdale, one of the Vice-Chairmen.

Well, we have had the election. Who won, who lost and what will it mean for the parliamentary party, formerly known as Conservative? Reports are somewhat mixed. The Guardian, who, as readers will recall, broke the story of the slate, thus managing to annoy a lot of Tory MPs, says that it was win some, lose some for Cameron.
Supporters and opponents of David Cameron achieved a score draw in elections to the executive of the 1922 committee on Wednesday, which were seen as a test of Tory backbench mood amid fears that Downing Street is losing its touch.
A bold move by loyalists to achieve "seismic change" in the elections, by removing "bloody rude" members of the old guard, achieved partial success when some critics of the prime minister were unseated. But the modernisers on the 301 Group, who had published a slate of candidates that was handed out to MPs as they voted on Wednesday afternoon, also suffered some setbacks.
The main battle for the two coveted secretary posts on the executive of the 1922 executive resulted in a draw. Karen Bradley, who was on the 301 Group slate, won a post. But Charlie Elphicke, a Cameron loyalist, failed in his bid to take the other.
That post went to Nick de Bois, a popular figure with all wings of the party who was not on the 301 Group slate. But the Thatcherite Chris Chope, who had been strongly supported by the traditional right, was unseated.
And so it goes: Bernard Jenkin survived, Peter Bone did not; some MPs got in with the support of the 301, some like Robert Halfon, part-time rebel, without it and Ms Patel managing to get the support both of the Cameroonie loyalists and of his opponents.

James Forsyth in the Spectator thinks that 301 Group have managed to purge the 1922 Committee, though he acknowledges that Bernard Jenkin and Nick de Bois (the non-slate candidate who got one of the secretarial positions) managed to win because of personal popularity and despite not being part of the slate. There is no mention of Robert Halfon.

Curiously enough, Mr Forsyth thinks this makes the 1922 Committee more powerful because it now definitely represents the parliamentary party as a whole. The fact that the Executive is now full of Cameron loyalists who stood specifically to ensure that the Committee, from now on, toed the line, seems to him unimportant.

Paul Goodman on ConHome is clear: it is a victory for the 301 Committee. He sees it as a change of generations, though he does mention that undoubtedly glasses are being raised in Downing Street and the Treasury. Their boys and girls have won and will ensure that there will be no undue opposition to the leadership that the backbenchers will not have an organization through which they can express their discontents.

Incidentally, it is interesting to note that the definition of a rebel is now someone who voted for that benighted and pointless EU referendum. As this blog and EURef noted at the time, the referendum is a means of fudging the issue. Vote for it and you are a "rebel" though it is meaningless. The fact that most of those MPs, including the fragrant Ms Patel have never put their heads over the parapet on any issue that matters, becomes irrelevant.

The commenters on ConHome who ask whether there really is nothing more important going on in Britain fail to see the point. As far as the Boy-King and his camarilla are concerned the most important matter is controlling everything they can: party, Commons, backbench committees and, soon, the Lords. Nothing else matters to them.