1922 committee

Cameron sticks to the script at the ’22

David Cameron has just delivered his end of term address to the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers. The Prime Minister made little news apart from going out of his way to praise Maria Hutchings, making clear he had no truck with efforts to blame her for the party’s poor performance in the Eastleigh by-election. He stuck to the same messages that he had when addressing the parliamentary party the other week, one backbencher left complaining ‘we’ve heard it all before.’ But what should cause some concern Number 10 is how few MPs turned up to hear the Prime Minister. The audience was estimated at between 80 and 100, less than

1922 Committee: Tory MPs call on Sir David Nicholson to go

Tonight’s meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs was dominated by calls for Sir David Nicholson to quit as NHS Chief Executive over the Mid Staffs scandal. Bill Cash, who was the MP for Stafford and now represents the Staffordshire seat of Stone, stood up and asked, ‘is there a single person in this room who thinks Nicholson shouldn’t go?’ Only one person indicated that they disagreed with Cash. I understand that more than 10 MPs followed Cash’s lead and made the case that Nicholson had to go if accountability in public life was to mean anything. Those calling for Nicholson’s departure were emphatically not the usual suspects. Indeed, I

Kris Hopkins slams Douglas Carswell and the rebels’ tactics at tense meeting of the 1922

It was a stormy meeting of the 1922 Committee tonight. The cause of controversy was last week’s defeat of the government on the EU Budget and whether or not the rebels — led by Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless — had cooperated with Labour. Kris Hopkins, of the loyalist 301 group, read out Carswell’s letter to colleagues saying that he had had no direct contact with the rebels. He then said that seeing as the Mail on Sunday reported this weekend that Carswell had, everyone present should write to the paper and complain about its inaccurate report. The irony was, I’m told, rather effective. But this was not the end

The 1922 swings behind its chief whip

In normal circumstances, five Tory MPs questioning the chief whip’s position at the 1922 Committee would send Tory high command into a panic. But tonight there is relief that only five MPs spoke out against Andrew Mitchell and that more than a dozen spoke in his support. I understand that Bernard Jenkin’s intervention was particularly effective, persuading at least one MP not to speak against Mitchell. Those present say that the mood of the room was largely in favour of the chief whip remaining in post. There’s a sense that while what he did was foolish, the issue has now been hijacked by the Police Federation and the media. Some

Exclusive: Fourteen Tory MPs stab David Cameron so far

Mr Steerpike understands that only fourteen Tory MPs have written to Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbenchers 1922 committee, asking for a leadership contest to oust David Cameron. Although the names officially remain a secret, fourteen is the number that the PM’s enemies believe that they have secured so far. Our Prime Minister can breath a sigh of relief, for now. Thirty two more names are needed for any kind of trouble, as Matthew d’Ancona explained in yesterday’s Evening Standard: ‘Under the system introduced by William Hague in 1998, the incumbent leader faces a vote of no confidence triggered by letters from 15 per cent of the parliamentary party

Grant Shapps addresses the 1922 committee

Grant Shapps, the new Tory chairman, has been addressing the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers this evening. Shapps appears to have gone down fairly well. MPs are glad to have a Chairman who is in the Commons after two and a bit years with a peer doing the job, though Andrew Feldman remains a co-chair. Shapps told MPs that he was keen for CCHQ to offer them every assistance it can. He announced that he would be placing a CCHQ staffer in the whip’s office several days a week so they could handle MPs’ requests. I also expect that there will not be the usual by-election edict for the Corby

Cameron tries to calm troubled waters at the 1922 committee

By tradition, David Cameron stands outside meetings of the 1922 waiting to be summoned in. This meant that several late-arriving rebels had to walk past him on their way in. By and large, things were fairly cordial. But there was some tension at various points. Cameron started with a tribute to the Chief Whip, which got the MPs banging the desks. Some are taking this as a signal that Patrick McLoughlin is to be retired in the reshuffle. But those present thought it was more of a public admission that the whipping problems of the last few weeks have not been caused by the Chief but by Number 10 and

The 301 Group purge the 1922 committee

The 1922 elections were not a clean sweep for the loyalist 301 Group slate, they missed out on one of the secretary position. But they have pretty much succeeded in purging the ’22 and the Backbench Business Committee of the so-called ‘wreckers’. Indeed, the only ‘wrecker’ who has survived is Bernard Jenkin who remains on the ’22 executive. But, significantly, I understand that Stewart Jackson, who spoke up in defence of Nadine Dorries at ’22 last week and was very critical of David Cameron at the weekend, came — in the words of one who has seen the actual voting numbers — ‘within a whisker’ of being elected to the

The battle for the ’22

Elections to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers have always been a test of the relative strengths of the right and left of the party. But this year, the split is between those who are backing the broadly pro-leadership 301 Group slate and those who view the ’22 as more of an alternative voice. The contest has become particularly heated after last week’s fiery meeting of the ’22 Committee. Intriguingly, Stewart Jackson, who was barracked when he tried to defend Nadine Dorries for her ‘posh boys’ attack on Cameron and Osborne, is standing for the executive. Given what he wrote on Sunday and that he resigned as a PPS over

Modernisation comes to the 1922 Committee

Christopher Chope is the only officer of the 1922 Committee who will be challenged by the 301 Group backed slate of broadly pro-leadership candidates. It is running two candidates for the two posts of secretary: Charlie Elphicke the popular, campaigning MP for Dover and Karen Bradley, the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands. Where the slate is running the most candidates is for the executive, full list below. But here great care appears to have been taken to come up with an inclusive list. For example, the group is supporting Adam Holloway who resigned as a PPS to vote for the EU referendum motion. It is also endorsing Penny Mordaunt, one of

The ‘22 equation

Next month’s elections to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers have taken on particular importance in the current circumstances. The fact that a couple of the officer positions are held by Cameron’s harshest critics, and that some MPs broadly supportive of the leadership have decided to take on the ‘wreckers’, means that the results will be seen as a sign of where backbench opinion in the party really is. As I write in the Mail On Sunday today, three of the 2010 intake — Charlie Elphicke, George Hollingbery and Priti Patel — have decided to endorse a joint candidate for secretary of the committee. This candidate will stand seeking a

The Tory leadership is still fighting John Major’s battles

Bruce Anderson has written a typically trenchant piece today describing the Tory party’s treatment of John Major as ‘the most unworthy, the most shameful, period in Tory history.’ Based on both how close Bruce is to those around David Cameron and my own conversations, I would say that this is a verdict that many in the Tory leadership would agree with. Indeed, the way in which Major was treated by some Tory backbenches has informed — often with calamitous consequences — Cameron’s approach to party management. Take, for instance, Cameron’s effort straight after the election to neuter the 1922 Committee and turn it into the Conservative Parliamentary Party. This move was

Cameron loyalists say his Tory critics are a small minority

The drumbeat of criticism of David Cameron and George Osborne by various Tory MPs, summed up on the front page of today’s Telegraph, has drawn a reaction from those MPs loyal to the leadership. Kris Hopkins, the founder of the 301 group of Tory MPs, complains that the trouble is being whipped up by a ‘small group of disaffected people’ and that ‘the nature of their criticisms shows that this is about their egos not making the country a better place.’ At issue here is who speaks for Tory MPs. Hopkins claims that the vast majority of his colleagues are ‘committed and supportive of the Prime Minister and his team’

Tory MPs welcome the Budget

George Osborne and David Cameron have just addressed the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers. They received the traditional desk banging reception and Tory MPs seemed in good spirits as they left the meeting. Interestingly, they were nearly all relaxed about the increase in the personal allowance, believing that they would get the credit just as much — if not more than — the Liberal Democrats. One told me that ‘the public view this as a Conservative government when things are going well and a coalition one when things are going badly’. Perhaps the biggest piece of news out of the meeting is that Osborne offered Tory MPs considerable encouragement that

A significant moment in the battle for the 1922 Committee

It might mean little to people outside Westminster, but the decision of Mark Pritchard not to stand for re-election to his job as Secretary of the 1922 Committee is a significant moment. It suggests that the Cameroons might be making some progress in their attempt to gain control of the internal structures of the parliamentary party. Pritchard has been a thorn in Number 10’s side ever since he started warning against the ‘Purple Plotters’ who wanted to merge the two coalition parties back in January of last year. Since then, his positions on circus animals, his role in the rebellion of the 81 and his general willingness to speak out

Boris puts on a performance for the 1922 Committee

Boris Johnson was very well behaved this evening when he appeared before the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs. He stayed off the topics of Europe and tax and instead confined his remarks to London, saying that he wanted the capital to be an example of ‘cost-cutting, one nation Conservatism’. Those MPs inside the room say the performance was classic Boris, as one put it ‘he left no erogenous zone unstroked’.   Afterwards, Mark Reckless, a north Kent MP, asked the Mayor a sceptical question about his plan for a new airport in Kent. In the questions, I understand that Boris also took the chance to express his support for Rebecca

A Cameron-friendly backbench group

The 301 Group is the nearest that David Cameron has to a loyalist backbench support group; it is named after the number of seats the Tories will need at the next election to win a majority. The Times today reports the group’s concerns that the Tories are in danger of forgetting the importance of a broad agenda that goes beyond the party’s staple issues. I suspect that several people in Downing Street will nod along at these concerns. The group has certainly been encouraged by Number 10, which has difficult relations with the 1922 Committee. Its early speakers have included the chief whip Patrick McLoughlin and the vice-chairman of the

Cameron’s warning to his applauding backbenchers

David Cameron was greeted with a full-on, desk banging reception at the 1922 Committee. The applause only stopped when the chief whip told the assembled backbenchers to sit down. The Prime Minister’s message was that the next year is going to be even tougher than the 1979-81 period. He argued that the government needed to be even bolder to show that it wasn’t just a technocratic government but one motivated by a desire to help families who do the right thing, but sadly no MP pressed him on how that fitted with the coalition decision to increase out of work benefits by more than 5 per cent. One other interesting

Expect today’s eurosceptic celebrations to be muted

The real Tory celebration of David Cameron’s veto will be on Wednesday. Then, behind closed doors, Cameron will address the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers. With no Lib Dems present, the Tories will be able to thump the desks and be rude about the EU without worrying about what their coalition partners might think. But in the chamber today, Tory MPs are being urged to be calm and forensic. The whips keep pointing out to ambitious MPs that a question on what Labour’s position is would be most helpful. Eurosceptics, though, should be in good cheer today even if Cameron’s statement is more downbeat than they would like. The veto

Cameron needs an amendment – and fast

A third of Tory backbenchers have now signed the EU referendum motion. Worryingly for the whips, this isn’t the limit to this motion’s appeal. There are several Tories who plan to come out for it on Monday and one PPS, Stewart Jackson, has already made clear that he’s prepared to resign over the matter if necessary. Last night, Number 10 sources told me that they would be interested in a compromise amendment. But I think the Cameron operation will have to offer more than they were planning to. What’s needed to head off this rebellion is a commitment to renegotiation at the first available opportunity followed by a referendum on