In this Parliament more than ever, the Chairman and Executive of the 1922 will have a critically important role in ensuring that the views and interests of Conservative colleagues are communicated to the Prime Minister. In the new circumstances of coalition government, success or failure will depend absolutely on maintaining the support and consent of back bench members. As David Cameron has acknowledged, consultation and communication with colleagues will be vital.
The 1922 Committee will have an important role in ensuring that the coalition government receives timely and effective input of Conservative thinking into its deliberations on policy. An early priority for the new Executive should be to establish a mechanism for interested colleagues to play their part in this process.
For many years before I became a Member of Parliament in 1997 I served the Conservative Party as a volunteer and an association officer. Since 1997 I have done my bit on the front and back benches, serving on select committees (Education, Treasury, Parliamentary Reform) and in a number of shadow ministerial jobs. As PPS to Michael Howard as the party leader and as Shadow Europe Minister, I worked in some of the most sensitive and confidential settings.
Over the years that I have served in Parliament, I hope that I have shown two qualities that are of fundamental importance in a Chairman of the ’22. Firstly, independence – I will stand up for what is right and defend the interests of colleagues. Secondly, I believe that I have exercised discretion and tact in the best interests of the Conservative Party. In the three years since I resigned from the front bench to make the case for grammar schools (a crucial constituency issue), I have been scrupulous in my loyalty to the party and in supporting our election efforts. If colleagues do me the honour of electing me to serve as their Chairman, I will communicate the views of colleagues privately to the Prime Minister with vigour and determination.
Coalition government has been hailed as a part of a “new politics”. I believe that enhancing the role of Parliament and the status of MPs as the elected champions of our constituents is just as important. For too many years the Executive has eroded the power of Parliament and back benchers have increasingly been marginalised, I want to play a part in reversing that process. Elected Members of Parliament must be given the respect and independence to allow us to represent our constituents effectively.
If I am elected Chairman of the ‘22, I believe that I can help to give the Conservative Party in Parliament an effective voice within the government and I will fight hard to advance and protect the position of Parliament at the heart of our democracy. Hearing the views and concerns of colleagues put forcefully and honestly will, I believe, be an important asset for our Prime Minister as he governs in these immensely challenging times.