By Tim Montgomerie
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The Cabinet is too dominated by Liberals and Liberal Conservatives and the 1922 Committee is too Old Right. This is a gross simplification but not a million miles from the truth. The aim must be for both centres of power to become more balanced – there can or should be no victories with one side determined to eliminate the other. We have to get along. Voters hate divided, fractious parties and there is also the small matter of UKIP's growth. YouGov's Peter Kellner and The Independent's Amol Rajan both warned yesterday that we might be on the verge of an historic split of Britain's Right that could add up to a huge electoral gift to left-wing, big state and Europhile parties.
I say all of this because the campaign of MPs Charlie Elphicke, George Holingbery and Priti Patel to rebalance the 1922 (I reported on this a couple of weeks ago) is coming to fruition. Part of their aim is cultural – to give the 1922 a greater focus on campaigning and policy and for it to be more discreet – and the second set of aims is to ensure (a) the Class of 2010 are better represented, (b) more centrists sit on the '22, and (c) the "wreckers" are ousted. "Wreckers" is their word and they mean Peter Bone, Chris Chope and Philip Davies.
The three MPs have been working within the 301 Group (recently profiled by Matthew Barrett) to deliver these aims and this morning have released the slate of candidates that they hope can deliver a cultural change and also ensure all wings of the party feel represented.
Names in italics below are existing officers that the slate will not challenge (assuming those candidates wish to stay in office):
- Chairman: Graham Brady
- Vice Chairman: Charles Walker
- Vice Chairman: John Whittingdale
- Secretary: Charlie Elphicke
- Secretary: Karen Bradley
- Treasurer: Brian Binley
- Guto Bebb
- Tracey Crouch
- George Eustice
- Graham Evans
- Robert Halfon
- George Hollingbery
- Adam Holloway
- Simon Kirby
- Penny Mordaunt
- Sheryll Murray
- Priti Patel
- Nicholas Soames
Commenting on the slate George Holingbery has issued this statement:
“The 22 needs to be a more effective political force. While it has done a great job with inward looking issues like boundary changes and pay & rations, it can do so much more. It needs to be somewhere the backbench can organise itself in Parliament; where the issues of the day can be discussed openly and frankly but privately; where we can foster stronger relationships with Ministers and their teams, with the voluntary party and with outside organisations; and from where we can push our ideas upwards to the leadership. If we’re going to make this happen, we feel the membership of the Executive needs to reflect views from all sections of the Party, across intakes and particularly from those from marginal seats. We hope the names we are putting forward reflect this."
My impression is that a lot of care has been taken to produce a reasonably balanced ticket. The weaknesses include a very big swing to the Class of 2010. Every Committee member except Adam Holloway and* Nicholas Soames will be a new MP if the slate triumphs. This will still leave Executive members John Whittingdale (first elected in 1992), Graham Brady (1997) and Brian Binley and Charles Walker (both 2005) representing longer-serving MPs but it looks a bit narrow when we should be valuing experience.
The slate's aim for the 1922 to be more private in its criticisms of the leadership is a noble aim but probably unrealistic. Read Michael Spicer's new diaries and you'll quickly learn that members of the '22 have never been good at keeping their thoughts to themselves.
Finally there'll be a tussle over the '22 being more focused on campaigning. Traditionalists think campaigning is the job of Conservative HQ. While it is necessarily true that Con HQ is operationally responsible for campaigning some new thinking on how the Tory machine operates would be welcome. The '22 already has policy development as one of its roles. I see no principled reason why it shouldn't think about ground and air operations too.
* "Adam Holloway and" added later.