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Thursday, 20 May 2010

1922 And All That

Yesterday evening, the Tory Party’s back bench 1922 Committee had a meeting, and it was addressed by Young Dave. Only at the very last minute were those back benchers told of Cameron’s jolly good idea that ministers – including him – should be able to participate in the committee’s business. Normally, when in Government, it’s back benchers only.

So what? Well, the “22” has a role, when the Tories are in Government, for the foot soldiers to air their grievances, for the mood among them to be taken and then advised to the PM. Its history stretches back to the year when those same Tory back benchers pulled the plug on the Lloyd George coalition – the last Tory and Liberal one – in order to preserve the party’s identity and allow it to go on and govern alone.

But Young Dave doesn’t like the idea of excluding ministers: he says the Tories need to be “one party” (Who said “Ein Volk”? Go and stand at the back). It’s thought that the idea of holding the “22” rather closer than before came from the experience of “Shagger” Major: the last Tory PM had a torrid time with back bench plotting. Whatever the objections from some old hands, Cameron carried his vote, predictably given the size of the new intake this time. But 118 MPs voted against him.

And meetings of less than totally happy Tory back benchers don’t have to happen in a Commons committee room. In fact, given the means of communication available nowadays, actual meetings don’t have to happen at all. Unless Cameron intends to monitor his MPs’ email, mobile phone, Twitter and any other communication they care to use, he could be in the dark as much as Major or Thatcher were.

Moreover, there would be nothing to stop the 118 disaffected – and however many more they may recruit along the way – forming a new committee. Right now, the new Government is still in its honeymoon phase, but given the usual crises and scandals, together with the strain of holding two parties close to one another, there could well be a 2012 Committee rising from the ashes of the “22”.

It might not have been such a good idea for Young Dave to listen to “Shagger” Major, who brought us Back to Basics, the railway sell-offs, the Cones Hotline ... you get the picture.

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