I can exclusively report that Sir Charles Walker – Vice-Chairman of the 1922 Committee – has resigned from the Conservative Party Board. He had served as a member of the Board, elected as a representative of Conservative MPs, since 2010.
In resigning from the Board, Walker has also left the Candidates’ Committee, the sub-group charged with overseeing the maintenance of the candidates’ list and the process of selecting Conservative Parliamentary Candidates.
Given his long and loyal service, and his prominence after his successful joint stewardship of the recent leadership election, it’s a surprise to see him leave the post so abruptly. Many close to the situation are tight-lipped about what has happened, but I understand there have been rising tensions in the Candidates’ Committee about the controversial approach to selections which CCHQ is pursuing – and which ConservativeHome has covered in depth over the last week.
Those tensions apparently broke out into a vocal dispute among the Candidates’ Committee in recent days. It doesn’t seem a huge leap to draw a possible link between the controversy, the internal disagreement about it, and now the sudden departure of a prominent MP who was a member of that very committee.
If that assumption is correct, Walker would not be alone in his concerns; I reported yesterday that in addition to mounting fury among the candidates list, some associations are starting to push back against increased central control.
The prospect of an election brings with it a new challenge on this front. How will the remaining candidate selections, including some in plum seats, be conducted in a short period of time? CCHQ’s answer in 2017 was dysfunctional, demoralising and damaging. Will the candidates department avoid a repeat of those mistakes?