The 1922 Committee, formally known as the Conservative Private Members' Committee, is the parliamentary group of the Conservative Party in the UK House of Commons. The committee, consisting of all Conservative backbencher MPs, meets weekly while parliament is in session and provides a way for backbenchers to co-ordinate and discuss their views independently of frontbenchers. Its executive membership and officers are by consensus limited to backbench MPs, although since 2010 frontbench Conservative MPs have an open invitation to attend meetings. The committee can also play an important role in choosing the party leader. The group was formed in 1923 but became important after 1940. It is generally closely related to the leadership and under the control of party whips.
Committee constitutional matters
The 1922 Committee has an 18-member executive committee, the chairman of which oversees the election of party leaders, or any Conservative party-led vote of confidence in a current leader. Such a vote can be triggered by 15 per cent of Conservative MPs writing a letter to the chairman asking for such a vote. This process was used most recently on 28 October 2003, when 25 MPs requested a vote of confidence in Iain Duncan Smith by writing to the chairman, then Michael Spicer. Duncan Smith lost the vote the next day.
The committee was formed in 1923 after the 1922 general election. The name does not, as is sometimes wrongly supposed, stem from the 19 October 1922 meeting at the Carlton Club in which Conservative MPs successfully demanded that the party withdraw from the coalition government of David Lloyd George, and which had triggered that general election.
The MPs who founded the Committee were not the same as those who had taken the decision to end the 1916–22 Coalition government. It began as a small dining group of new members elected in 1922, named for the year of their election. The Committee soon developed into a ginger group of active backbenchers. 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. It became known as the Conservative Private Members' Committee. Consequently, it became a platform for the majority rather than a focus for discontent.
The term "men in suits" or "men in grey suits", meaning a delegation of Conservative MPs who tell a party leader that it is time for them to step down without forcing an open challenge, is often used in reference to members of the 1922 Committee. It became popular after the resignation of Margaret Thatcher.
On 19 May 2010, shortly after the Conservatives had formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, Prime Minister David Cameron suggested altering the Committee to involve frontbench ministers 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 criticised the move and voted against it, while ministers had argued such a change would be necessary to continue operating coherently as a party during its membership of a coalition government.
However, under its new chairman Graham Brady, it was clarified shortly after that vote that although frontbenchers are now able to attend meetings of the Committee, only backbenchers would be able to vote for its officers and executive committee, similarly to the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Current executive committee
- Vice chairmen
- Joint- executive Secretaries
- Executive Members:
- Gervais Rentoul (1923–1932)
- William Morrison (1932–1935)
- Hugh O'Neill (1935–1939)
- Patrick Spens (1939–1940)
- Alexander Erskine-Hill (1940–1944)
- 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)
- Harry Legge-Bourke (1970–1972)
- Edward du Cann (1972–1984)
- Cranley Onslow (1984–1992)
- Marcus Fox (1992–1997)
- Archie Hamilton (1997–2001)
- Michael Spicer (2001–2010)
Notes and references
- "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
- "What is the 1922 Committee, who are the members of the Conservative group and why are they so important to Theresa May?". thesun.co.uk. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
- Harris 2013, p.265
- John Ramsden (1998) An Appetite for Power – A History of the Conservative Party since 1830 ISBN 0 00 255686 3 p287
- "1922 Committee","Political Notes", The Times, 22 December 1926, p. 12.
- R.L. Borthwick; Martin Burch; Philip Giddings (16 September 2016). Churchill to Major: The British Prime Ministership since 1945: The British Prime Ministership since 1945. Routledge. pp. 154–5. ISBN 978-1-315-48151-7.
- Brogan, Benedict; Sylvester, Rachel; Jones, George. "Duncan Smith loses backing of the 'men in grey suits'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
- Brant, Robin. "1922 committee and Tory MPs' contact details". BBC. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
- Rawnsley, Andrew. "Dead man talking". The Observer. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
- "Cameron angers MPs with bid to change 1922 Committee". BBC News. 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.
- Brady elected as Tories' 1922 Committee chairman BBC News 26 May 2010
- Eaton, George (11 October 2017). "The 1922 Committee: how the Tories' men in grey suits wield power". New Statesman.
- Wallace, Mark (18 July 2017). "1922 Executive Committee election results announced. Two new MPs join it – Badenoch and Lamont". Conservative Home.
- Ball, Stuart (1990). "The 1922 Committee: the formative years 1922–45". Parliamentary History. 9 (1): 129–157. doi:10.1111/j.1750-0206.1990.tb00556.x.
- Goodhart, Philip; Branston, Ursula (1973). The 1922: The Story of the Conservative Backbenchers' Parliamentary Committee. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-33314386-8.
- Harris, Robin (2013). The Conservatives - A History. Corgi. ISBN 978-0-55217033-8.
- "BBC NEWS - UK - UK Politics - 1922 Committee". News.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 January 2018.