1922 committee

The turning point?

There’s a feeling in Conservative circles that they have finally turned the corner on phone hacking today after David Cameron’s marathon performance at the despatch box today. At the 1922 Committee this evening, Cameron entered and exited to the banging of desks. But, tellingly, there were no questions on phone hacking and Andy Coulson. Instead, the crisis in the eurozone was the main subject of discussion. Cameron did, though, refer to the matter. At the end, he recalled how Peter Tapsell, the veteran Tory MP, had said of him that ‘he had never known a Prime Minister more adept at getting out of scrapes. But he had also never known

Brooks comes to Cameron’s aid, perhaps unintentionally

Rebekah Brooks’s  appearance before the Culture Media and Sport Committee was largely uneventful. Most of the questions addressed her editorship of the News of the World, a period about which she cannot openly speak at present because of the criminal proceedings brought against her. However, Brooks was very keen to distance herself from David Cameron. Towards the end of the session, Tory MP Philip Davies asked of the stories circulating about her relationship with Cameron. She took the opportunity to deny them and set the record straight. “I have not visited David Cameron at Downing Street since he has become Prime Minister,” she said and then added that she had visited Tony Blair and

James Forsyth

The crisis gets closer to the Tories

The news that Neil Wallis was informally advising Andy Coulson without the knowledge of any of the other senior figures in the Tory party is a reminder of just how dysfunctional the Tory party machine was pre-election. It is also an indication of the license that Coulson was afforded. The Tories cannot say if anyone else offered Coulson this kind of ‘informal advice’. The Tories are stressing that they did not pay Wallis or his company. But it is a massive embarrassment for the Tory party that two people who did work for it in its preparations for the election have now been arrested by the police. I expect Cameron

Cameron tells the ’22, the NHS pause is my idea not Clegg’s

David Cameron was received in the usual desk-thumping way at the 1922 Committee. But what was striking about his appearance was his message that the NHS reform pause is his idea not Nick Clegg’s and that he won’t let the Lib Dems take credit for the coming changes. The robustness of this message took even Tory MPs by surprise. But I understand that Tory high command feels that Clegg’s decision to list the Tory policies he had blocked this morning means that they are allowed to make points like this. There were some hostile questions to Cameron but the general mood of the meeting was positive. Cameron’s list of Tory achievements

Purple Pritchard

It’s a far cry from the egregious Tory right of Sayeeda Warsi’s imagination. Mark Pritchard, Secretary of the 1922 Committee, has looked at the result of the Oldham and Saddleworth by-election and has concluded that the Tories and Liberals may have to reach an arrangement for future by-elections. He said: “I think this has wider questions for other by-elections that will invariably come along over the next few years, and that is whether we have an open discussion now over whether we have some sort of close co-operation with the Liberal Democrats in Westminster by-elections…a quid pro quo type of arrangement. “It is absolutely clear that every by-election that comes along there

Is it a merger?

When a Conservative leader wishes the LibDems well in a three-way marginal by-election, then what is going on? Andrew Gilligan’s piece today shows that the Conservative campaign there is muted, and my colleague Melissa Kite reported earlier that Cameron personally called off  the hunt supporters, Vote OK, who were planning to boost the Tory campaign. Little wonder that Conservative MPs are beginning to smell a rat. They are being told this is the cohabitation of rival parties; in the Daily Telegraph tomorrow, I ask if this is actually a merger.   From the start of this coalition, I’ve been struck by the differences between the coalition in Westminster, and that

James Forsyth

A preview of the rebellions to come

Today’s papers are full of the Tory right asserting itself. In the Mail On Sunday, Mark Pritchard—secretary of the 1922 committee—demands that the Prime Minister and his allies come clean about any plans to create a long-term political alliance between the Tories and the Lib Dems. In The Sunday Telegraph, there’s a report that Tory rebels will vote with Labour to try and defeat the coalition’s European Union Bill. I suspect that these stories presage one of the major themes of the year, an increasingly assertive right of the Tory parliamentary party. For too long, Cameron has neglected his own MPs both politically and personally. The result is a willingness

Cameron tries to reassure colleagues on expenses

David Cameron has this evening told the 1922 Committee that IPSA will have to change by April 1st next year or be changed. He told the ’22 that he understood the ‘pain and difficulty’ caused to colleagues by the new system and denounced the new system as ‘anti-family.’ He said that IPSA would be given until April next year and if it failed to do so it would be reformed. Tonight’s address was an attempt to defuse an issue that has really rankled with Tory MPs, and has for some become a proxy for the leadership’s perceived lack of regard for them. It is, perhaps, a sign of how strained

Simmering below the surface…

By way of an addendum to Fraser’s post, it’s worth reading Melissa Kite’s account of internal Tory strife for the Sunday Telegraph (it doesn’t seem to be in the paper, but is available online here). The piece records what sounds like a tumultuous week for the Tory whips, as they struggled to keep a group of disgruntled MPs on side. There are plenty of little insights, of which this is just a selection: 1) The 1922 Committee gets angry. “The ceding of a series of major powers to Europe, the increasing of international aid, the decision to have a referendum on voting reform, the redrawing of constituency boundaries – all

Will the Tory right oppose a graduate tax?

One of the vulnerabilities of the Coalition is that when Labour moves position one of its flanks can be exposed. When the Coalition agreement was drawn up, it seemed sufficient that the Lib Dems would maintain the right to carry on opposing tuition fees as both Labour and the Conservatives were in a favour of them. The Lib Dems would still be able to tell students, a key constituency for them, that they were the only party committed to abolishing fees. But as soon as the Labour leadership contenders started moving rapidly towards a graduate tax, the Lib Dems had a problem. The Tory leadership rapidly accepted the need to

The Brokeback coalition

It’s the silly season. The Newspapers have been trawling for anti-coalition quotes from MPs, their wives and their dogs. They’ve found two. Tim Farron, the defeated candidate for the Lib Dem deputy leadership, said yesterday that David Cameron had a ’toxic brand’ and it wasn’t his job to cleanse it. Well, the latter is certainly true, and Lib Dem benches are concerned by plummeting polls and intense flak from Labour. David Cameron will make a very public effort to grant the Lib Dems concessions on civil liberties and fairness in the tax system, a pre-emptive tonic ahead of cuts.    There is disquiet on Tory backbenches – there always is.

Meetings galore

All of a sudden, the coalition partners can’t get enough of their backbenchers.  Last night, it was David Cameron meeting the 1922 Committee to reassure them about their mutual relationship.  And, today, Nick Clegg is going on an “away day” with that half of his party which isn’t in government, all to explain his close affair with the Tories.  Presumably, flowers and chocolates will be involved. The Clegg meeting, in particular, is worth dwelling on – and Sam Coates and Greg Hurst do just that in an insightful article for this morning’s Times.  For those who can’t travel beyond the paywall, here’s the line which stands out: “Lib Dem MPs

The ’22 bares its teeth

Tim Montgomerie reports that the 1922 Committee is to launch its own inquiry into the Tories’ election campaign. This, as I understand it, is in addition to the party’s official inquiry, and therefore suggests that the backbenches want to assert their independence by criticising Steve Hilton and George Osborne’s strategy. After May’s ruptures between Cameron and the backbenches there is a chance that this story could snowball. There is a sense that some of the ’22 haven’t yet buried the hatchet. And the feeling’s mutual. Some Cameroons and modernisers are disdainful – ‘self-indulgent farts’ was how one put it. But the ’22 must assert itself and I welcome this review.

David Davis is the darling of the Tory right

ConservativeHome conducted a poll into prominent, right-wing Tory backbenchers. Unsurprisingly, David Davis topped the poll. 70 percent of respondents hold that David Davis represents their views and 54 percent believe he articulates those views effectively. John Redwood and Daniel Hannan were some way behind as DD’s closest rivals. Davis’s chief weapon is communication. Plain speaking and from a working class background, people easily identify with him; and he expresses an acute intelligence in simple terms, something that John Redwood has failed to do. And whilst Hannan has charisma, Davis has more – the fruit of a decade at the forefront of British politics. Above all, Davis espouses talismanic grass-roots causes:

A new approach to party management

The newly-elected 1922 Executive is another demonstration of the strength of the right wing of the Conservative party. Paul Goodman notes that of the seven MPs elected to the executive who were are not new to Parliament, six are on the right. The only one who isn’t is Nick Soames, who is a special case. As one member of the ’22 executive said to me earlier today, Soames, because of his immense popularity and standing in the party, transcends his factional labelling. Of the five new MPs elected to the exec, three — Robert Halfon, Charlie Elphicke and Priti Patel — are definitely on the right of the party. On

The Tory right asserts itself

The results of the 1922 elections show that Conservative backbenchers are distinctly right-wing and keen to assert independence. In the race for chairman, Graham Brady — the only man to resign under David Cameron’s leadership on an issue of party policy — romped home by 126 votes to 85. This result suggests that Brady would have beaten Richard Ottaway even if Ministers had been allowed to vote. Brady’s margin of victory suggests that the new intake are an independent bunch as it was the worst kept secret in Westminster that Ottaway was the leadership’s preferred candidate. Indeed, one member of the new intake told me that he thought his colleagues

A show of Cameron’s adaptability

Great to hear that David Cameron has decided to keep the 1922 committee reinstated. This is a significant, unexpected development – and sign of strength, not weakness. Interestingly, I hear that George Osborne had not been properly consulted about last week’s events: ie the way in which MPs were asked to vote into effectively abolishing the 1922 committee of backbenchers and being strongarmed, Blair-style, by the leadership. Cameron had not intended things to turn out as they did and Osborne, in particular, was dismayed.   I always suspected that last week’s fracas was a simple misjudgment, easily explained under the chaotic events of coalition. Cameron is, I fear, being poorly

Ministers won’t be able to vote in 1922 elections

So it turns out that John Redwood’s uncertainty was well-placed. According to Jonathan Isaby over at ConservativeHome, the Tory chief whip has decreed that ministers won’t be able to vote in 1922 Committee elections after all. They will only be able to attend meetings, which, as Jonathan says, “no-one ever really had a complaint about.” All this comes on the back of confusion about what last week’s ballot even meant, making a curious situation even curiouser.  But, whatever the reasons behind it, the outcome will be seen as a climbdown by David Cameron – and perhaps the first real dent to his authority since coming to power. Meanwhile, the 118

Cameron should seek the common ground

Last weekend, David Cameron had few rebels at all in his party. This week, he has 118. The vote on the 1922 Committee membership was a free vote, of course, so this can by no means be compared to a proper, whip-defying Commons rebellion. But we have seen there are scores who are not prepared to support the leadership automatically. As I say in my News of the World column today it was unnecessary to draw such a dividing line over a party that badly wants the coalition to succeed. True, Tony Blair bossed his party about. But Blair earned the right to when he won a landslide victory. His