In British politics the 1922 Committee or formally the Conservative Private Members' Committee is a committee of Conservative Members of Parliament. Executive membership and officers are by consensus limited to backbench MPs although since 2010 frontbench Conservative MPs have an open invitation to attend meetings.[n 1] The Committee meets every week while Parliament is in session, and provides a way for Conservative backbenchers to coordinate and discuss their views based on their constituents' and personal views, independently of frontbenchers. The Committee can also have an important role in choosing the party leader.
Committee constitutional matters
The 1922 Committee has an 18-member executive committee, the chairman of which must oversee any election of a new party leader, or any Conservative party-led vote of confidence in respect of the current one; such a vote can be triggered by 15 percent of Conservative MPs writing a letter to the chairman asking for such a vote. This process was invoked most recently on 28 October 2003, when 25 MPs requested a vote of confidence in Iain Duncan Smith by writing to the chairman[n 2]. Duncan Smith lost the vote the next day.
The committee was formed in 1923 but takes its name from the 1922 general election. The name does not stem from a famous October 1922 meeting in which Conservative MPs successfully demanded that the party withdraw from the coalition government of David Lloyd George. The resolution passed at that meeting triggered the general election which the Conservative Party won — the many new Conservative MPs elected for the first time formed the Conservative Private Members' Committee to discuss and influence political events. The MPs who founded the Committee were not the same as those who had taken the decision to end the 1916-22 Coalition government. After the 1923 and 1924 elections, the membership expanded as more new Conservative MPs were elected, and in 1926 all backbench MPs were invited to become members.
On 19 May 2010, shortly after the formation of a coalition government between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats Prime Minister David Cameron[n 3] suggested altering the Committee to involve ministers (frontbenchers) in the recommendation forming process, angering some backbench MPs. On 20 May 2010, Committee members voted to approve the change, with 168 votes in favour and 118 against. Many backbench party members did criticise the move and voted against it, while Ministers had argued such a change would be necessary to continue operating coherently a party during its membership of a coalition government. However under its new chairman Graham Brady it was clarified shortly after that vote that frontbenchers are consequently able to attend meetings of the Committee whereas only backbenchers would be able to vote for its officers and executive committee.
Accordingly the 1922 Committee now is open to all sitting Conservative members of the House of Commons — although frontbenchers may attend, they cannot participate in elections and so it is similar to the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Recent media coverage
In July, 2011, after addressing the House of Commons in the wake of James and Rupert Murdoch's parliamentary testimony in the News International phone hacking scandal, Cameron was reported to have been received enthusiastically by the Committee, later that night. A second Guardian report on this supportive reception stated that "reporters ... outside" were a probably intended audience for the show and that Cameron's support amongst Tories was still at least to some degree shaken by the News International-related events. "Many [party members in Commons] complain," according to the reporter without naming names, "that they cannot use the 1922 Committee ... without being briefed against for doing so."
The Spectator on 20 December 2012 seemed to cast little doubt on backbenchers speaking their minds at meetings: at the party leader's end-of-year address to the Committee one MP freely said his party needed to learn a lesson from what had happened regarding Andrew Mitchell, other members in Committee meetings earlier in the year having "expressed concerns about Mitchell that contributed to his decision to resign."
The full 1922 committee membership as of May 2012, comprises:
- Executive Members:
- Gervais Rentoul (1923–1932)
- William Morrison (1932–1935)
- Hugh O'Neill (1935–1939)
- Patrick Spens (1939–1940)
- Sir Alexander Erskine-Hill (1940–1944)
- Sir John McEwen (1944–1945)
- Arnold Gridley (1946–1951)
- Derek Walker-Smith (1951–1955)
- John Morrison (1955–1964)
- William Anstruther-Gray (1964–1966)
- Arthur Vere Harvey (1966–1970)
- Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (1970–1972)
- Sir Edward du Cann (1972–1984)
- Cranley Onslow (1984–1992)
- Sir Marcus Fox (1992–1997)
- Sir Archie Hamilton (1997–2001)
- Sir Michael Spicer (2001–2010)
- Graham Brady (2010–present)
Notes and References
- Starting between 2003 and 2005, while the party was in opposition, frontbench MPs other than the party leader began also by invitation to attend its meetings.
- At the time this was Sir Michael Spicer.
- The Conservative Party leader
- Leadership Elections: Conservative Party p. 8
- "Political Notes", The Times, 22 December 1926, p. 12.
- "Cameron angers MPs with bid to change 1922 Committee". BBC News (BBC). 19 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "1922 Committee: David Cameron wins vote on rule change". BBC News. 20 May 2010. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- BBC News Brady elected as Tories' 1922 Committee chairman
- Watt, Nicholas (22 July 2011). "James Murdoch stands by evidence he gave Commons committee". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- Helm, Toby and Daniel Boffey (24 July 2011). "How phone hacking scandal took the shine off the Prime Minister". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
- The Spectator's official blog - 20 January 2012, retrieved 21 January 2012
- "New faces elected on to influential Conservative 1922 committee". BBC News. BBC. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2012.