As we wrote last week, the election for the Chairmanship of the 1992 Committee features two candidates from the centre-right of the Parliamentary Party. Both are men. Both are Brexiteers. Both are long-standing MPs: one entered the Commons in 1997; the other in 2001. Both sit for non-southern constituencies (one for a seat in suburban Manchester, the other for one in rural Herefordshire.) Both were members of the previous committee.
Graham Brady is the incumbent. His letter to Conservative MPs stresses experience, discretion and support for fellow Tory MPs. He also wants to revive the traditional backbench policy committees that shadow Government departments (a longstanding interest). This would certainly provide a role for MPs who are interested in a subject but can’t get on the relevant select committee. Since there are now 365 Conservative MPs, there will be a lot of them.
Bill Wiggin is the challenger. A letter from him to fellow Tory MPs this morning stresses i) putting backbenchers first; ii) treating the Prime Minister with “the dignity with which their office deserves”; iii) preventing “important responsibilities such as candidate selection being taken out of the hands of the Party, iv) contesting boundary changes, and v) being “passionate about the full participation of the Chairmanship in the responsibilities of running a leadership election”.
The fifth point is a suggestive one. Wiggin’s supporters are critical of Sir Graham for recusing himself from last year’s leadership contest on the ground that he might stand himself. (Cheryl Gillan, re-elected unopposed as a Vice-Chairman, oversaw the election with her “beautiful assistant” – Charles Walker, also re-elected unopposed as a Vice-Chairman.) Theresa May’s opponents were critical of Brady for moving slowly – there was a kerfuffle about his stewardship of the rules – while her supporters were critical of him for moving quickly, as they saw it.
A question for today’s election is to what extent, if any, Conservative backbenchers want it to revisit the past – even the recent past. ConservativeHome is told that the One Nation Caucus is supporting Brady. (The centre-left of the Party has no candidate of its own.) Some members of the new Tory intake are unaware the contest is taking place at all. So the dispositions and timetable favour the imcubent, but with this electorate one simply never knows.