Results of the 1922 Committee Elections

11 Jul

The results of the 1922 contested elections are:

Officers:

Nus Ghani & Will Wragg re-elected as Vice Chairman

 

Executive:

Aaron Bell

Miriam Cates

Jo Gideon

Richard Graham

Chris Green

Robert Halfon

Sally-Ann Hart

Andrew Jones

Tom Randall

David Simmonds

John Stevenson

Martin Vickers

 

As a matter of interest, Bell, Gideon, Stevenson, and Green are backing Tugendhat, whilst Halfon is backing Javid.

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Snow White and the 13 dwarves? Let’s eliminate the no hopers and get on with a real contest.

8 Jul

Snow White and the 13 dwarves?  I’m not identifying any of the 14 potential candidates for the Conservative leadership currently listed on this site as the former.  Or indeed the latter.  But you get my drift.

As I write, any Tory MP can declare that he or she intends to stand – regardless of whether or not the or she has any serious support among their colleagues.

Which means that we are once again facing the prospect of an Andy Warhol leadership election – i.e: a contest in which any Conservative MP can become “famous for 15 minutes”.

He can declare, get his name in lights, angle for a deal with a more substantial candidate – and then formally withdraw from an election which he was never a serious contender.

This is why the 1922 Committee Executive required candidates to have a minimum threshold of support of ten MP supporters in order to enter the Parliamentary round of the 2019 leadership election.

The ’22’s aim was to eliminate from the contest those MPs who had no real chance of winning.  Even so, eight candidates entered the contest, three of whom won under 17 votes in the first round at Westminster.

This time round, the new executive should set a higher threshold: say 25 supporters.  If you can’t find a robust minimum number to back you publicly you are wasting your time – and everyone else’s too.

My understanding is that the first round of MP voting may be held on Wednesday and a second round if it is necessary on Thursday (which is almost certainly will be).

The Parliamentary stage will then stretch into next week.  The election will take place by exhaustive ballot – so it will go on for as long as is necessary to whittle the contenders down to a final two to put to the members.

Graham Brady is the returning officer for the election, and will thus put a timetable for the membership stage to the Party Board.  Senior members of the ’22 want the whole contest done and dusted by the time of Parliament’s return on September 5.

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Changing the Conservative leadership challenge rules. Is there a trade off?

27 Jun

Rightly or wrongly, ConservativeHome didn’t advise Tory MPs to vote against Boris Johnson in the recent leadership ballot.

I believed that there were good arguments both for him staying and going, but that he had not sustained a major policy defeat – such as Suez, the pound being forced out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, or the defeat of his EU withdrawal proposals (unlike his predecessor).  And that this should tip the balance in favour of support.

However, some two in five Tory MPs, including a majority of backbenchers, voted against the Prime Minister, which in my view makes it likely that he will challenged successfully before this Parliament ends.

So I wrote that the Cabinet should tell him to stand down, thus ensuring that he leaves office undefeated, either in a general election or by an internal challenge, and so is able to depart with more dignity – having delivered Brexit with the Vote Leave team, for which the country is in his debt.

As far as I know, no centre-right national newspaper has called on Cabinet members to act in this way, for all their pungent criticisms of Johnson.  So this site seems to be a bit of an outrider amidst the Tory media family.

Oliver Dowden was not in a position to compel the Prime Minister to resign, nor apparently to act with his Cabinet colleagues to that end.  So he took the honourable decision to quit himself.  That he might himself have been sacked in the coming reshuffle should not detract from it: after all, he has no guarantee of return to office.

It may be that other Cabinet members will soon follow suit.  Perhaps one of the others tipped for the chop in the next reshuffle will also decide to resign.

But there are reasons for none to do so.  Some of these will be bad – such as privately believing that the Conservatives can’t win the next election under Johnson’s leadership, but thinking that by then they may no longer be in Cabinet, and apres moi le deluge.

More will be good.  If you believe that you’re doing a good job, as Cabinet Ministers presumably do, they won’t want to leave it, and will believe that they have a duty to stay in post.

Furthermore, many were first promoted to the Cabinet by Johnson himself, and all will feel that they owe the Prime Minister some loyalty, whether he appointed them or not.  Some may also believe that the Party should not be plunged into a leadership election with no clear consensus over who should win it.

There is another factor.  No Cabinet member who has an eye on standing in the event of a vacancy will want to tell the Prime Minister to go – on the ground that doing so would make his or her victory less likely.

The old saw has it that he who wields the dagger never wears the crown.  Whether or not it’s true may matter less than Cabinet ministers believing that it does.  In any event, the ambitions of some of them make acting in concert less likely.

“After you, Liz.”  “No, after you, Rishi.”  You can see why senior Cabinet members might be hesitant, if they come to believe in the near future that Johnson should go, to do anything much about it.

Where the Cabinet is unlikely to act, should the 1922 Committee Executive?  There is a view among some Tory MPs, as the elections for a new executive approach, that it should change the leadership challenge rules. At present, there can only be one a year.

In principle, allowing more frequent ballots is a bad idea.  A party which permits its MPs to seek formally to remove its leader several times a year is unlikely to be a party capable of governing coherently.

It may be that there is a trade-off between more frequent leadership ballots and a higher threshold requirement – a quarter of the Parliamentary Party, say, rather than the current 15 per cent.  But even that would have a smack about it of seeking to re-run the FA Cup Final because one didn’t like the result.

In practice, it may just be that Johnson stands down without a ballot being held.  Were Graham Brady convinced that a challenge would defeat the Prime Minister, he would surely tell him so.

The legend is that it would take nothing less than an SAS snatch squad to remove Johnson from Downing Street.  It’s certainly in Number Ten’s interest to say so. But I wonder.  Were the Prime Minister convinced that he would lose a ballot, it’s possible that he might go quietly – well, noisily, but you know what I mean.

After all, he decided not to pursue the leadership in 2016 after Michael Gove withdrew his support.  There are precedents for Johnson not hanging on until the bitter end.

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Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Politics is a blood sport and the Prime Minister has been knifed

6 Jun

In a high and splendid chamber overlooking the Thames, a shock result was declared. At the back of the room, 50 members of the press were admitted to hear the announcement.

In front of the journalists a milling mass of MPs crowded in, blocking the view. Everyone stood and craned to see Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, as he entered and in a loud voice gave the bare result: 211 votes in favour of Boris Johnson, 148 against.

A strange, low whistle of amazement as soon as the figures were known, followed by a great drumming of desks by those MPs who support the Prime Minister: the traditional way in which the Tory tribe demonstrates its approval.

But beneath the magnificent history paintings which adorn Committee Room 14, many MPs stood in silence, and were not applauding.

Johnson’s performance was worse than almost everyone at Westminster who had ventured a forecast, including most of my colleagues in the press, had expected.

Before the vote, there was among many of the spectators an atmosphere of hectic gaiety. There was nothing much to do apart from crack jokes.

Afterwards, a sombre mood reigned. We were watching a blood sport, and the quarry, a man fighting for his political life, had been wounded not just by 54 of his followers who put in letters against him, but by almost three times as many who cast their ballots against him.

“It’s not very good, is it,” I remarked to a colleague as we traipsed back to the Press Gallery, in a less gilded part of the palace.

“It’s very bad,” the colleague replied.

That certainly was how it felt, and the blow was the worse because only a few hours earlier Johnson had been given the chance to defend himself in a speech to Conservative MPs in the Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House, the modern part of the palace above Westminster Underground Station.

Those of us waiting in search of enlightenment outside the meeting did not find it. From within the room came a tremendous noise of drumming: Tory MPs greeting their leader. Then a burst of laughter: Tory MPs showing their appreciation of one of the leader’s jokes.

Yet many MPs maintained an ominous silence about how they were actually going to vote. There was no sign that the party was rallying round him in his hour of need, averting the threat before it became perilous.

On the contrary, there were quite frequent increases in the number of declared rebels, and many of them were the kind of solid, decent people who lend weight to a cause, though not inspiration.

After the vote, Johnson came on the television. He wore a shell-shocked smile as he claimed he had far more support from Conservative MPs than he did when he became leader.

“I don’t think that people want to talk about stuff that goes on at Westminster,” he added.

He pointed out that as a nation, “we have a lot of natural strengths, not least the lowest unemployment since 1974”.

People were simply not interested, he insisted several times, in the media’s agenda.

How he must hope that is true. But he stumbled over the words as he said them, and all the world knew 148 of his own MPs had just knifed him.

Johnson has the power to call a snap election, but it would be political madness

1 Jun

From whence springs the apparent fear on the part of rebellious Conservative MPs that Boris Johnson might call a snap election in the event that he survives a vote of no confidence?

Bloomberg reports that the rebels think he might seek a “fresh mandate from voters” if the expected challenge fails to oust him as leader.

In fairness to them, some members of the Boris court have talked up this possibility in the past. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a constitutionalist who definitely knows better, suggested earlier this year that there would need to be a general election were the Prime Minister to be deposed.

And sources have told me that some in the current Downing Street team have talked about how a smaller majority might be easier to manage than a large one – which has a certain logic if one has no great ambitions to do anything ambitious with it.

Furthermore, there is no doubt that the Prime Minister could call an election if he wanted to. One of this Government’s concrete achievements has been the repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act – a welcome return to our tested political constitution after a woeful experiment with partial codification.

The Commons has re-conferred on the Prime Minister that power of dissolution of which Walter Bagehot said in The English Constitution: “no assembly would — unless for historical accidents, and after happy experience — have been persuaded to intrust to any committee”.

But what is constitutional and what is politically advisable are very different things.

First, there is surely no doubt that even were the Conservatives to win a snap election in such circumstances, they would lose a lot of ground. There is no ‘get Brexit done’ imperative to sell the voters on here, it would be very clearly about shoring up a wounded prime minister.

(Indeed, Johnson himself could well lose Uxbridge, a humiliation which really would win him his place in the history books.)

And it would not likely prop him up for long, either. If current polling is to be believed, the result could unmake the remarkable redrawing of England’s political map which Johnson achieved in 2019. He might actually lose his own seat.

Even if he did not, he would cease to be the political wizard who delivered an historic majority, a fact which remains an important plank of his remaining appeal. Why would MPs be more loyal to the wounded deliverer of a small majority than to ‘triumphator Johnson‘?

In the event that he held on, it is very difficult to imagine how a government which had just suffered a major electoral setback and would thus be even more focused on internal management and firefighting would conduct the sort of intellectual refresh that it so badly needs.

So if there is any truth to this threat, Johnson loyalists should consider that it might backfire. If Tory MPs think he’s serious, they could be encouraged to rally round him for fear of losing their seats… or they might well be more motivated to vote against him in the initial no confidence vote.

The 32 Conservative MPs who have called on Johnson to go

30 May

Updated 7.30am June 6th.

There are a mass of resources for those wanting to know how many Conservative MPs claim to have sent a letter to Graham Brady demanding a confidence vote in Boris Johnson’s leadership.

Or those who have called on him to go (not quite the same thing).

Or those who have criticised him publicly.

The Spectator has a list of those calling on him to go, Guido Fawkes ditto.  Then there is Tom Larkin of Sky‘s list of the same together with one of those Conservative MPs calling for a new leader at the next election, and John Rentoul’s detailed breakdown of the different takes of different Tory MPs, including those who say that they have sent in a letter.

I start from the premis that one can never be sure who has sent in such a letter, since only Graham Brady knows, but John lists 14 and there’s no reason to doubt any of them.

My own count of those who have unambiguously said that the Prime Minister to go and not rescinded that view is:

  • Peter Aldous
  • Steve Baker
  • John Baron
  • Aaron Bell
  • Karen Bradey

 

  • Andrew Bridgen added May 31
  • Steve Brine
  • Elliot Coburn
  • David Davis
  • Tobias Ellwood

 

  • Roger Gale
  • Nick Gibb
  • Stephen Hammond
  • Mark Harper
  • Neil Hudson

 

  • Alicia Kearns
  • Tim Loughton
  • Anthony Mangnall
  • Nigel Mills
  • Andrew Mitchell

 

  • Anne-Marie Morris
  • Bob Neill
  • Caroline Nokes
  • Jesse Norman added June 6
  • Angela Richardson

 

  • David Simmonds
  • John Stevenson added June 1
  • Gary Streeter
  • Julian Sturdy
  • William Wragg

 

  • Craig Whittaker
  • Jeremy Wright

A word on methodology: this list is conservative with a small “c”.  In other words, it doesn’t admit, say, Nickie Aiken, who hasn’t as I write actually called on the Prime Minister to resign, but has said that he should submit himself to a confidence vote to “end speculation”.

Not all of those above in my list will necessarily have submitted a letter (Davis, for example), but knock off, say, three; then add another (say) 15, and one would be in the low 40s for that purpose.

John Rentoul lists 16 as claiming to have sent letters to Brady.  Add Bridgen and say 12 of the 15 of his seperate list of those who have called on Johnson to go, and one reaches 29.

“The most sophisticated electorate in the world” is notoriously hard to read, but some Tory MPs will have written to Brady without announcing it. So it is possible that the theshold of 54 letters has already been reached.

A well-placed Minister told me last Friday that the odds of one are now “less than evens”.  Parliament’s return from recess is the next likely date for significant developments.  This list will be updated as and when necessary.

Redwood to co-ordinate the work of the new backbench policy committees

8 Mar

A former head of the Downing Street Policy Unit is to take charge of co-ordinating the work of the new 1922 Committee Policy Committees.

Namely…John Redwood.  Cue a sharp intake of breath at the Treasury, and perhaps in Number Ten too.

The senior Brexiteer is no less a one man think tank than ever, as his daily blog never ceases to remind its readers.  Plus his fortnightly Monday column for ConservativeHome.

Yesterday’s gave a flavour of his thinking on national security and economic expansion, just as his long campaign for more North Sea oil and gas is bearing fruit, if what we read of developing Government policy is correct.

Redwood won’t for a moment be telling the new policy committees what to think, but he has the brains and energy to move any slackers among them along.

As I say, the Treasury will be watching this appointment apprehensively.  “The UK economy is currently being run on the Maastricht rules as if we had not left the EU.” Redwood wrote on this site recently.

Guido recently published the full list of the new committees.  There hasn’t been one shadowing each Government department since the distant days of the 1990s.

The project is part of Downing Street’s new rapprochment with the Parliamentary Party.

So we will see in due course what Andrew Griffith, the recently appointed Head of the Policy Unit, makes of the committees, and vice-versa.  Here’s a link to his recent ConHome piece.

Elliot’s taste

21 Feb

Like many readers of this site, I’m a Conservative Party member.  Like a smaller number, I’m an Association patron.  Both require giving money.  Requests for more duly follow.

And with good reason. The Party leadership worked out some while ago, roughly during the period when Andrew Feldman was Chairman, that it is hazardous to rely on a few givers of million pound-plus sums. For the donors may decide that they no longer wish to give on that scale.  Or eventually be barred from doing so.

Since declarations under £7500 don’t have to be declared, it’s impossible to know what proportion of any political party’s funds these raise. Though I’ve been told that the amount of money raised by the Conservatives from such gifts have been increasing in recent years.

This humdrum flow of requests for money helps to put yesterday’s Sunday Times splash into perspective.  “Revealed: the wealthy donors with PM’s ear,” it said.  The details were new (in other words, the names of those who attend an “advisory board”).  Its essence was not (the board’s existence was revealed last summer).

The Sunday Times referred to “a leak of several thousand documents”, and presumably there will be more to come in due course.  The paper is not revealing its sources – quite rightly too if it doesn’t wish to – and speculation would lead down a blind ally.

At any rate, the story contains a quote from Mohammed Amerci, a member of this board during the pandemic, who has since fallen out with the Party and is highly critical of the project.  What are the facts?  The starting-point is the existence of forums that allow wealthy donors to meet party politicians.

Labour has the Rose Network Chair Circle, which has invited donors to meet Keir Starmer, details of which are available online. The cost of membership is £5,000 a head per annum.  The Conservatives have the Leader’s Group (£50,000) and the Treasurer’s Group (£25,000)Michael Gove addressed the former last year.

No difference in principle, then.  The advisory board is higher in price (it costs £250,000 a head) and may be different in practice.  It is alleged that members are asked for advice as well as money, but no documentary evidence for the claim was cited; nor is it clear that such requests, if made, are unique to advisory board members.

It was reported that advisory board members lobbied Ministers directly, but it would be surprising if no member of other forums has ever done so, regardless of party.  Certainly, there is nothing new about senior Ministers being asked to attend events to “sing for their supper”.

As I say, the Party’s drive for more small donations puts this push for more large ones in perspective, and three points follow – beside the obvious one that since Labour is in a glass house when it comes to donor clubs, it isn’t well placed to throw stones (and that’s before we get to the turbulent story of the party’s relationship with the unions).

First, the members of the advisory board are unlikely to feel that they’re getting what they want. As I’ve written before, “consider the planned rise in Corporation Tax, the effective re-nationalisation of the railways, and the shift in infrastruscture funding from south to north.”

“Plus net zero, industrial strategy, and the Conservative commitment to spend more, more, more on doctors, teachers and nurses. Much of this goes down well with, say, the CBI but badly with Tory donors, who tend to be blue in tooth and claw”.

Indeed, if advisory board members are hoping for results, there’s scant evidence that they’re getting them.  The Sunday Times report specifically referred to property, construction and big tobacco.  The former is fighting a rearguard action against a Government ambition for a smokefree England by 2030.

As for construction, the irresistible force of the housing lobby is meeting the immovable object of voter resistance. Liberalising planning proposals met mass resistance from the Conservative backbenches – and that was before the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

If my first point is that donors don’t always get their way, my second is that there’s no reason why they shouldn’t – sometimes, even often.  Unfashionable though it may be to say so, the clash of interests in Parliament, and their peaceful resolution through debate, is integral to liberal democracy.

Those Tory forums are part of one of those interests, capital, making its view known to Conservative front benchers. The latter are Ministers because voters made them so, in the near-landslide of the 2019 general election. So far, so good for the advisory board.  But there is a sting in the tail.

Which is that those who give the Party £25 a year, the standard membership fee, have no less an interest in its future than those who give £250,000 a year, the advisory board fee.  This brings me to my third point, which may be less helpful to CCHQ than my first two.

Namely, that we know a bit about what party members think, at least if the ConservativeHome panel is anything to go by. Seven in ten believe that money raised by activists shouldn’t help fund the leader’s private costs (with specific reference to that Downing Street wallpaper). Half want more control of how the money that they raise is spent.

It follows that a big slice of members, if our panel is representative, ask as ConHome has sometimes done: whose party is it anyway?  If an advisory board is to raise six figure sums, should the party leader effectively control how these are spent? And might it not be wiser to declare membership, rather than have it leaked?

At any rate, the trend in recent years has been for the leader to appoint an MP to spearhead campaigning and a friend to raise money.  The latter in Boris Johnson’s case is Ben Elliot, who has got the advisory board up and running.  I suspect our panel’s take is that what it gets up to is fundamentally a matter of taste.

On which point, Elliot will be more aware than anyone else, or at least should be, that Labour has its sights trained on him.  As Andrew Gimson wrote in his profile of the Party Chairman for this site, Elliot would not have arranged the seating plan which seated Robert Jenrick next to Richard Desmond at a party fundraising dinner.

But “because Elliot is in overall charge of CCHQ, he still incurs criticism when things go wrong”, Andrew continued.  “His insouciant manner suggests to those around him a refusal to contemplate the danger of scandal.”  Elliot later apologised to the 1922 Committee Executive.

If taste fails, rules step in: that at any rate is the lesson of the John Major years.  And the more rules there are, the more regulators there are – the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Electoral Commission, the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards…

And the more regulators there are, the more power falls into the hands of those we don’t elect rather than those we do.  But if voters don’t like the people they elect to govern them, they don’t seem to care for those they don’t elect, either – at least, not if Brexit is anything to go by.

By the same token, they may not like how the Conservative Party is paid for, but they would like paying for it themselves even less.  And funding Starmer, too.  Not to mention Nicola Sturgeon.  But when private funding becomes tainted as illegitimate, state funding steps in.  Elliot is playing for higher stakes than he may appreciate.

Heather Wheeler: The Conservatives have changed, and the ’22 needs to change too. That’s why I’m standing to be its Chair.

9 Jun

Heather Wheeler is the MP for South Derbyshire and running to be Chairman of the 1922 Committee.

The make-up of the Parliamentary Conservative Party has changed a great deal since I was first elected back in 2010. The political landscape and the values of the party have changed too and this is why I have decided to put my name forward as Chair of the 1922 Committee.

Back in 2010, we had 305 MPs and the election map showed a clear North-South divide with a liberal smattering of orange around the shires.

Fast forward to today and there are no fewer than 364 Conservative MPs and the election map shows a sea of blue up and down the country.

Those orange patches are so small they are almost impossible to spot these days and even the red ones are largely confined to the cities. Whole swathes of the Midlands (my patch) and the North have been won over by a combination of Conservative values and a promise to respect their vote and “Get Brexit Done”.

The demographics are different these days too. Back in 2010, there were 49 women Conservative MPs, today there are 87. In the interim period, we have also elected our second female leader and the country’s second female Prime Minister too.

However, the Parliamentary Party is still yet to elect a female chair of the 1922 Committee; a fact that I was actually unaware of until a colleague pointed it out to me after I announced my candidacy.

I obviously hope that my colleagues vote to change that in the upcoming 1922 elections. But I don’t believe in tokenism and hope to secure their votes as a result of my abilities and experience rather than my gender.

With the Labour Party beset by persistent ideological infighting and a toxic obsession with wokery, issues almost all voters I speak with have no time for, this shifting landscape looks set to continue.

Strong Conservative policies such as the Government’s levelling up agenda are already bearing fruit and there is a real chance that if we remain on the right track, the so-called “Red Wall” seats could and should become permanently blue.

Down here in Westminster we have been blessed with an exciting new generation of Conservative MPs who, like me, represent constituencies steeped in manufacturing and agriculture.

Our party is blessed with talent, MPs like Jane Hunt from Loughborough who has successfully held a University seat, John Lamont MP from Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk who has fought off the SNP, and Craig Williams MP from Montgomeryshire who has bounced back from losing a previous seat to secure a strong majority in a traditionally liberal Welsh seat.

These MPs and the many more like them are the future of our party and it is imperative that we do everything we can to keep them here in Westminster, working hard for their constituents, for as long as possible.

This is even more important with the process of the boundary changes officially starting from Tuesday June 8. We will have a huge task negotiating on behalf of sitting MPs who, through no fault of their own, may find themselves seatless.

The 1922 Committee has a key role to play in delivering that.

The ‘22 needs to act as both a conduit between the Parliamentary Party and our ministerial colleagues and a counterbalance to a government with a large majority and a wide-ranging agenda.

The Committee has to ensure that the voice of the backbenches is heard by ministers when it needs to be, whether that is to offer wholehearted support or constructive criticism. Its job is to ensure that this Government does remain on the right track.

The Chair is central to this role. The perfect ‘22 Chair must not be too close to the Government or too strongly opposed to them either.

It is a fine line to tread but one which, as a former minister in Boris Johnson’s Government and an independent-minded backbencher who has never been afraid to voice my own views and those of my constituents, I believe I am ideally placed to deliver.

Sir Graham Brady has shown some distinguished leadership during his time as Chair. But having held the role for 11 years, he is already the second longest-serving ’22 Chair after Edward du Cann.

The Party has changed, the political landscape has changed, and I believe it is time for the leadership of the 1922 Committee to change too. I know that many colleagues who have already offered me their support share this view.

It is time for the ‘22 to be revitalised to reflect the modern Conservative Party, to keep Government policies moving in the right direction, and to defend the values that everyone connected to the Conservative Party holds dear.

I believe I am the right person to deliver a renewed 1922 Committee that can serve the best interests of the Parliamentary Party, our grassroots members, and our voters up and down the country.

Most importantly of all, as Chair of the 1922 Committee, I will strain every sinew to ensure that we take the rights steps to deliver many more years of Conservative Party government.