The 1922 Committee

A few of you have made enquiries concerning the future of this august body. I have not been making public statements about it, as it is an internal party matter. I prefer to use my media appearances to talk about things that matter to many people, and have a direct impact on the daily lives of my constituents. Politicians talking about their own internal arrangements is not very exciting. Given some of the strange briefing from both sides in recent days, let me seek to clarify a few of the issues. I have no wish to give media interviews on any of this.

Throughout the Opposition years front bench Conservative MPs were allowed to come to the 1922 weekly general meetings, held when Parliament is in session. None joined the Executive of the Committee, which has seperate meetings. Traditionally in government Ministers only come by invitation, when we wish them to explain their policies or answer our queries or hear our disagreements. We have now decided that all Ministers should be free to come to any regular general meeting of the 1922 they wish. As far as I am concerned they are most welcome, and we may be able to hammer things out with them in private before opinions become too entrenched or misunderstandings too widespread.

There is then the question of the Executive of the 1922 Committee, which has always been backbench elected members only and meets in confidence weekly when Parliament is in session. It is my understanding of the new system that there will still be a weekly private meeting of the 1922 backbench Executive. I doubt whether Ministers are now eligibile to stand for the 1922 Executive, but I think it extremely unlikely any Minister would seek to do so. They would understand that the Executive has to be backbenchers only, and see they would be unlikely to be elected if they were allowed to stand and decided to stand. The Executive will continue to raise issues with the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers that are of concern to backbenchers, and continue to handle issues arising on behalf of backbench Conservative MPs generally in the conduct of their duties.

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16 Comments

  1. Richard
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Good to have that explanation. It sounded like a lot of fuss about nothing. Should the Government really betray Conservative principles (which I'm sure they won't), for example, by not abolishing the 50% tax rate in the near future, Conservative backbenchers could always form the 2012 Committee.

  2. Norman
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    The little I've read about this the controversy seems to be surrounding the election of the Executive committee members, not whether or not non-backbenchers attend the meetings or not.

    Not sure if I'm allowed to link on here but an interesting article covering this is given here http://www.critical-reaction.co.uk/2645/20-05-201… for anyone interested.

  3. Bob
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Heard you on R4 just now with Harriet's spouse.

    Masterful.

  4. Paul
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I would just like to agree with Norman – and add that the other part of the controversy are the way Mr Cameron sprung this on the backbenchers (rather than consulting them on the coalition agreement as they were expecting).

    If you could provide some commentary on these matters, Mr Redwood, I'd be most grateful. I'm not nearly as concerned by who attends as who votes, and by how much our party leader respects and consults the party.

  5. Bill
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    All a bit technical it’s an area for MP’s that few of us laymen understand.

    If I go to the pub tonight I could almost guarantee that no one will discuss the 1922 committee.

    I think you’re right to stick with matters such as taxation, treasury affairs and Afghanistan.

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    There are two extremely important things here and we, the punters, depend on your openness and honesty to tell us about them as they happen. You backbenchers, you see, represent us against the government sometimes. Ours is called Steve Barclay.
    First of all, was the way in which the changes were dictated. If I were a backbencher, already rather raw at an agreement on policy in which I had simply not been consulted at all, I should be really offended by being suddenly ordered how to run my society.
    Secondly, backbenchers need to be wooed and listened to. I rather suspect that you are not being. There are a hundred things on which you can easily have very strong views in this coalition.
    Harold Macmillan used to frequent the tea room where he seemed perfectly at ease. Have you ever seen a coalition chief in there yourself? Be honest, do you feel sidelined? Again, you are just us!
    Charles Moore wrote an excellent piece on this in today's Telegraph.

  7. DBC Reed
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    This crack down seems to come hard on the heels of the alternative (to the Coalition) proposals for CGT.And Standard story.

  8. anonymong
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    As always, the main interest of our elected representatives seems to be inward looking.

    Why can't these people realise that we (your electorate) simply don't give a monkeys about your internal party bickering? We elected you to serve us; shut up, and get on with it. Like it or loathe it, the Coalition is what you now have. Your leader (Call me Dave) is what you have. Show some damn loyalty to your leader, your party, and the country; and less to your pitiful little union of vested interests.

    Enough.

    • Jamess
      Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      I'd strongly disagree with this. What is John Redwood meant to do when showing loyalty to his country means showing disloyalty to Dave Cameron? Or when serving his constituencies means opposing government policy?

      Cameron's actions seem to point to a man bent on aquiring and using power – that's the type of man I hope the backbenchers will work hard at opposing, otherwise it will simply be Blair or Brown mark II

  9. Acorn
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Dear Rt Hon JR. Is anything planned for the Privy Council JR? Is it not time that this "off balance sheet" part of government, had a dose of transparency in the new politics? I see the "Rt Hon" Nick Clegg is now President.

    Statutory Orders in/of Council and Statutory Instruments in total, should be solely a procedure of Parliament, in the "new politics"; surely Mr Clegg?
    http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/page534.as

    PS. There are nearly 600 Rt Hons. Not a lot of people know that. Most of them don't get on the track unless they are holding the current ministerial baton. But I expect they get a pension enhancement or something.

  10. Quietzapple
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Remains quite clear that Mr Cameron hopes to stifle dissent and cut down on the sort of initiatives the "In or Out" referendum folk will seek to foster.

    I guess that is why Mr Chris Chope MP is reported to be considering legal action, and others setting up of some new group to take on the job of organising backbench joint considerations.

    Will there be a 2010 Committee, or a 2011 one?

    I guess Mr Cameron will not be invited.

    Notable that in no other organsation I have heard of – outside countries coming under totalitarian control – has an organsiation taken on those not entitled to vote to vote to change the rules so that they can.

    The average golf club would not stand for it.

  11. Cliff.
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Dear John,

    I have read your piece on the 1922 committee and something has struck me; you again don’t appear to criticise the leader’s actions. I have noticed that since Mr Cameron has taken over the leadership, you are seldom, if ever, critical or controversial in your blog threads and replies of the leadership. If a commenter asks a question or criticises Mr Cameron or the party, you seldom reply.

    Over the last fifteen years or so, there has been a major change in the way our political system works in reality. The party leaders seem to be more presidential and dictatorial than they have been in the past.
    I have also noticed that MPs seem to be unable or unwilling to answer questions put to them by the media; I watched two new Conservative MPs being interviewed on the TV, they were both lawyers, they both ducked the questions posed and went into prepared party line speeches complete with, what appeared to be, learned hand gesticulations. Do new MPs receive training on ducking questions and sticking to pre-prepared sound bites?

    Has the atmosphere within the parliamentary party changed since Mr Cameron became leader?
    Do the whips office have too much power now and bully MPs into backing the leaders view?

    It must be very difficult to be a modern MP having to balance loyalties to the leader, the party and your constituency, just out of interest, to whom do you feel your primary loyalty lies; Mr Cameron, the Conservative Party or the electorate within your constituency? I ask because I have always found you to be a good local MP but recently, you appear less willing to be critical of policies that go against what many of us believe to be Conservative ideology.

    Perhaps for a future thread, you could write a piece on how politics has changed since you first became elected and the relationship between the executive and the legislature in general and the leader/PM and backbenchers in particular. Perhaps you could also put your thoughts on whether the party leaders have become too presidential in their leadership styles or not and if they have, whether this undermines our democracy.

    Perhaps you could also comment whether the lurch to the centre ground by the main parties has led to a lack of choice for the electorate and whether this coalition is the natural conclusion of such a policy.

    Hopefully you’ll have time to reply and I thank you in anticipation.

    Cliff.
    Wokingham,

    Reply: I have not criticised the Leader of the Conservative party in public as I wish him well and these are early days for him as PM. You have to remember that if I did criticise him on this site this would make a big news story. I intend to concentrate on the state of the country, and arguing for policies which i think will improve the lot of the British people.

    • Cliff.
      Posted May 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      John,

      Thank you for your reply however, I feel that your reply to my comment illustrates my main points perfectly. You chose to answer a very small part of the questions posed within my comment and used a stock answer.
      The important questions contained within my comment, for me as a supporter of you personally, if not Mr Cameron’s type of Conservatism nor of “The new politics” were these;

      Has the atmosphere within the parliamentary party changed since Mr Cameron became leader?
      Do the whips office have too much power now and bully MPs into backing the leaders view?
      Do new MPs receive training on ducking questions and sticking to pre-prepared sound bites?
      It must be very difficult to be a modern MP having to balance loyalties to the leader, the party and your constituency, just out of interest, to whom do you feel your primary loyalty lies; Mr Cameron, the Conservative Party or the electorate within your constituency?

      Taking the final question slightly further, if we use a hypothetical situation to set the scene, perhaps you would say how you would be likely to vote in this scenario;

      As part of Mr Cameron’s green agenda it is decided that the country’s biggest land based wind farm should be built on Dinton Pastures, eighty-five percent of the local population are opposed to it.
      The government want it to go through and the whips are applying pressure.
      A vote by you in favour of it will get it passed.
      Abstention by you would still mean its passed.
      A vote against it from you would block it and defeat the government.
      How would you vote; for the party/government or your local electorate?

      I have seen so many examples of politicians having “Road to Damascus” moments recently, the latest being Teresa May on last Thursday’s Question time, that I fear modern politicians are no longer allowed to have their own thoughts and opinions, only those of the leader of the party. If there is any truth in this statement, then surely it is damaging to our political system.

      Cliff.
      Wokingham.

      Reply: My prime duty is to the electors of Wokingham . In the windmill case I would vote against the government's proposal. I do not think the Whips are more powerful than under John Major. The mood is different because the Leader is different and we are in a Coalition.

  12. Andrew Williams
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Dear John Redwood,

    I wonder if you would care to comment on Portillo's article in the Telegraph where he writes that Cameron ultimately wants to create a permanent center party out of the Liberal Conservative coalition? Portillo also speculates that Cameron could push for electoral reform AV (?) which could make the chances of the Liberals and Tories forming a permanent coalition more likely. Portillo's prediction is further strengthened by Cameron's own fear post the election that the Conservatives had reached the high water mark of what they could achieve in number of seats and that they would never manage to get a full majority.

    Many thanks,

    Andrew

    Reply: As I understand it Mr Cameron will be campaigning against AV and remains an opponent of it. The main Conservative electoral reform is equal sized seats which makes winning a Conservative majority much more likely.

  13. Robert
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    John – you have copped out and you know it!

    Reply: Some issues are best pursued in private

  14. Martin Zak
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I am a 61 year old man who has always voted Tory. I did not not vote for a Liberal government but it seems we are stuck with one. David Cameron is a weak wet leader and unless things change will never vote Tory again. What happened to pulling out of the human rights act and the referendum on europe?
    Count me out at the next election.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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