By Paul Goodman
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There have been slates and factions for '22 Committee elections for time out of mind – probably since it first came into existence.
As a young Parliamentary researcher, I watched Sir William Van Straubenzee and Michael Mates prepare the left-of-party-centre ticket for the contest.
And as a middle-aged Conservative MP, I received mysterious message board missives from the right-of-party-centre ticket headed: "SOUND SLATE…SOUND SLATE…SOUND SLATE."
But the regular tussle for officer and committee posts took place largely below the radar of media scrutiny. The blogs, Twitter, a more sensation-driven lobby and the Westminster equivalent of the celebrity culture have changed all that.
So has the manner in which the party leadership sought to change the candidates list, especially after the expenses scandal – expressly seeking out candidates with no proven track record of commitment to the Conservative Party.
The end result is a group of older intake MPs, generally on the right of the party, who make little secret of their distrust of David Cameron…and a group of new intake MPs, some from the centre-left, a few of whom make no secret at all of their contempt for their older colleagues.
The decision by Nicholas Soames and Tracey Crouch not to stand for re-election to the '22 executive tomorrow must be seen in this context. In some ways, they couldn't be more different.
The first is an old Westminster hand, the second from the 2010 intake. The first leans left-of-party centre, the second right. The first has never been seen, to my knowledge, on a football field while the second never seems to be off one.
But as the Guardian reports this morning, both have decided not to re-stand for the '22, citing the open factionalism and public campaigning now raging as the cause. In particular, they are apparently "infuriated" by previous reports that have appeared in the very same newspaper.
These, featuring Kris Hopkins, the MP for Keighley and an organiser of the 301 Group, have played a large part in raising the temperature of the '22 elections – and thus consolidating the factionalism that Mr Soames and Ms Crouch want no part of.
The departure of these two independent-minded MPs – both thoroughly decent people – really is the '22's loss, and a telling indicator of the problems now gripping the Parliamentary Party, for which the party leadership is partly responsible.