James Forsyth

The 1922-2010 Committee

The 1922-2010 Committee
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In a move of breath-taking audacity, David Cameron has just announced that there will be a ballot of the parliamentary party to establish whether or not members of the government payroll vote will be able to be full voting members of the 1922 Committee. This may seem like a small technical change but it is of massive importance: it would hugely limit the power of Conservative backbenchers to hold the government to account. When the Conservative party has been in government, the 1922 Committee has been the voice of the backbenchers. It is how they have held Conservative ministers and prime ministers to account.

Cameron’s move, if successful, would effectively remove that power from them. It would mean that around a third of the members of the 1922 could be whipped and that the 1922 was far easier to control. In the last parliament, the 1922 executive unaminously rejected the idea that ministers should be able to vote on the grounds that the ’22 is a forum for backbench opinion.

The vote on Cameron's proposal opens soon and closes at 11am tomorrow. The leadership is relying on its MPs not wanting to rock the boat so early in a new government to pass the measure. But if this change does happen, Cameron will actually find it far harder to build a constructive and healthy relationship with his backbenchers, something that will be crucial to making this coalition work.