Coffee House

The court threat that stopped David Cameron from abolishing the 1922 committee

25 April 2013

When David Cameron spoke at the 90th anniversary party of the 1922 committee earlier this week, he used glowing terms to praise its chairman Graham Brady and urge backbenchers to ‘stick to our guns’. Anyone would think he hadn’t tried to abolish it in effect by allowing ministers to attend and vote shortly after the Coalition had formed. That the Tory leadership backed down on this, in spite of winning the vote that would have introduced the change, was well-reported at the time. But one of the key things that precipitated the climbdown has been a secret until now.

Bill Cash, one of the MPs most enraged by Cameron’s attempt to change the committee at the time, has spoken exclusively to Coffee House about the extraordinary events of the week that the voice of Tory backbenchers nearly lost its power. It was in fact a threat of court action that led the leadership to back down and allow ministers only to attend and not vote at the committee.

The change that David Cameron proposed would have had serious implications for the way the Conservatives reacted to Coalition, as giving ministers the vote would have, as James explained at the time, stifled its role as a forum for backbench opinion. The Prime Minister called a special meeting of the parliamentary conservative party on 19 May 2010 and told them to preserve ‘unity’ and ‘harmony’ during a Coalition government, ministers should be included. A few other loyal MPs spoke up to support the idea, with one arguing that Winston Churchill had done the same during the war, and then a few others raised concerns. But then the party was told that the ballot to approve the change was now open in a committee room down the corridor. The vote was then won 168 to 118.


But Cash was so horrified by the announcement that he sought advice from a QC on whether approving a change to the 1922 committee with a vote of the parliamentary party was legal. He also discovered that Churchill had not, as was claimed at the meeting, made the same changes when he was Prime Minister: in fact he had looked at the same idea being proposed and had said it was impossible.

He then held a meeting with the key leadership figures involved in the changes in Downing Street the following Monday, where he also presented them with a letter that explained the QC’s opinion, and warned the leadership that it could face court action if it tried to proceed with the change.

On that day, a Tory spokesman clarified that ministers would be able to attend but not vote. Brady was later elected 1922 committee chair, partly because he was seen as being the most opposed to the measure.

Cash has never spoken before about his threat to the leadership about the consequences of the change, and tells me that celebrating the 90th anniversary reminded him of how fragile the institution being praised that evening really is.

‘It came so close to being lost only a few years ago, but this week we had warm words and praise from everyone at the party, which shows how far things have come since. But we nearly lost the ’22, which is the voice of the backbench Conservatives, and I was reminded of that this week.’

There are of course some loyalists who would still like this change – Claire Perry repeated the idea in her Coffee House interview in January – but if the time that’s passed since that ballot has taught the Prime Minister anything, it’s that he ignores the voices of his backbenchers at his peril.

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  • Smithersjones2013

    Well done Bill Cash. Clearly Claire Perry is the Silly Bercow of the Conservative Party

  • Robert_Eve

    Good for Bill Cash.

    • tele_machus

      Bill Cash led the rebellion(to Maastricht), organising the finance and offices to set up the European Foundation and to fund legal challenges to the government. Opposition to Maastricht led to the foundation of the Anti-Federalist League which ultimately led to the creation of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
      Your hero truly did good

  • thanksdellingpole

    None of those on the back benches will matter when UKIP get in, talk about clinging on to the past.

    • David Julian Simpson

      ukip don’t stand a cat in hells chance of being in power. In fact they would like to have a lot more members. you read day after day people posting that they will vote for them but none are actually members. you are all mouth and trousers

      • dave244

        Just like the other political party’s who have such high membership numbers 2011 Conservative 177,000 – Labour 190,000 – Lib Dem – 66,000
        when in 1991 Conservative 1m to 0.5m – Labour 261,000 – Lib Dem 91,000.
        People are tuning to Ukip not just because of the European Union yes people have a concern about the E.U but a bigger concern is the how the politicians in Westminster are viewed most people ( me included ) see them as professional politicians who are shallow and opportunistic
        The one thing Politics ought to be above all else is honest but unfortunately it’s not it’s full of spin and half truths and when that fails, lies
        Maybe ukip won’t be any better but they couldn’t be any worse than the shower of s******ds we have now

        • HookesLaw

          And if your Mr Farage was in power? Ha what a laugh we would have at your expense then as he back tracked on everything as it refused to work.

          But all you are doing is making it easy for EU friendly Labour.

          In any event Farage is not being honest in pretending being out of the EU would be materially different that being in. We would still be abiding by single market rules and paying in to the EU – just like Norway which is the 10th biggest net contributor to the EU.

          • Russell

            The only way Cameron has a hope of retaining even a respectable amount of Tory MP’s come 2015 is to see the light and u-turn on his pro EU stance and campaign to leave, and adopt really tough immigration policies on both EU countries and elsewhere.
            As a first step, he should immediately declare emergency measures to prevent Romania and Bulgarians travelling here in January 2014, which is actually allowed by EU law.

          • dave244

            Any market you sell to you have to abide by their rules whether you like it or not and don’t forget they sell more to us than we to them
            ” And if your Mr Farage was in power?” will he be better i have no ideal but given the lies and bullshit we get now I’m willing to give him a go

            • HookesLaw

              You have to keep polishing the chip on your shoulder.

              Angela Merkel announced in January that France
              and Germany will present joint proposals in May for closer economic and
              monetary union in Europe, to stabilise and deepen integration in the
              The EU is changing and we will negotiate a new deal with it as a result.
              After that there will be a referendum, but you don’t want to recognise that. if you do not like the deal you can vote against it.
              Based on a small difference between being IN and OUT (take a look at Norway) and the fact that you will get your referendum you persist in pretending that Farage offers something different.

              • dave244

                My biggest problem with the E.U is not the euro or integration in to Europe but the lack of democratic accountability and as for the referendum that Cameron promised don’t hold your breath because it will never happen and as for the chip on my shoulder you are a like any eurofile anyone who doesn’t see your point of view is “a little englander” well I’m sorry to rain on your parade but i like Europe and it has a lot offer us and we have a lot to offer them but i also like democracy if you put the word into any search engine it will give you a definition go on look it up you might be surprised
                Now why don’t you make the traditional eurofile argument wait i have a better ideal i do it for you it goes something like this.
                We are constantly reminded that the eurozone is the UK’s largest trading partner. But the reverse is also true if you look at both exports and imports, the eurozone economies do more
                business with the UK than any other country, including the US. On
                average, we accounted for nearly 14% of eurozone exports between 2007 and 2011 and just over one-tenth of its imports.
                So they need us for trade just as much as we need them
                One last thing why do you keep going on about Norway it’s a lovey county but our economy bigger and we are not as reliant Europe as they are but if you like so much move

                • Davey4Lyfe

                  i dont understand this “unaccountable” argument, what do you think european elections are for?

                • dave244

                  How many European citizens actually voted for President Barroso or come to that how many European citizens actually voted for the Euro.
                  Democracy is not a pick and mix you either use it all the time or you don’t which then means you are not a full democracy society.
                  It has been said that under it’s own rules on democratic accountability the E.U would not allow it’s self to join the E.U
                  Without getting to over emotional about it people in the past ( and are still dying in parts of the world today for the same rights ) have died to win the right so people like me and your self can vote but the vote is only part of it also insures everyone is entitled to an opinion and also has the right to express that opinion
                  A quote from Voltaire ” I disapprove of what you say but i will defend to the death your right to say it”
                  And that is truth that should not be forgotten

          • tele_machus

            HookesLaw is actually a Labour troll. I think that as a socialist myself he tries a little too hard to play the Conservative, especially as he is not conservative at all. HL, this is a place where a little less would achieve a lot more.

            • HookesLaw

              I have voted Conservative since 1970. Shows what you know.
              A little less would achieve a lot more?
              And so we can look forward to more considered opinions can we, rather than knee jerk polemics, from the right wing fantasists that have adopted the Spectator?

              I know that the only thing that stands between us and another 5 years of socialist disaster, which would probably include closer integration with the EU, is voting Conservative.

              • Hexhamgeezer

                Haven’t you heard of speculating to accumulating? Of course you have. hence your hatred of the prospect.

                Allons Y

          • Hexhamgeezer

            ‘just like Norway which is the 10th biggest net contributor to the EU’

            Which surely shows what a basket case the EU and your beloved H2B is.

      • Russell

        I actually paid £30 for a years membership to UKIP yesterday after supporting the conservatives and voting for them all my 44 year working life, so not everyone is mouth and trousers, I think you will be surprised how many have similar views to myself.
        It doesn’t matter a fig that UKIP will not win a majority in 2015 and form a government. What is important is to make the politicians of the two main parties (the LibDems don’t count) aware of the anger of the electorate to the EU, Immigration and the disdain which they show towards the electorate. Maybe in another couple of general elections UKIP will have a chance of a majority, look what happened to the in Canada, it was replaced (massacred) when it ignored its core supporters.

    • HookesLaw

      Remind me what are UKIPS policies… oh yes Farage worked them out on the back of an envelope down the pub.

      • tele_machus

        My contacts in the senior ranks of the Conservative Party, (and I do have some very senior contacts), are concerned that 5 MPs named to me will defect to UKIP if the council elections go bad. I don’t think they will because all MPs value their careers most of all. But this is the fear in the Conservative Party.

        The last gasp of the right? Will they actually do anything? I doubt it.

        • Hexhamgeezer

          Keep on believing. It might get you a proper job sometime~~~~~~~*

      • Tony Quintus

        And they still look better than the few shreds of garbage put forward by Ed Milliband.

    • Russell

      Most of them will defect to UKIP by 2015 (If they want to remain as MP’s).

    • Powder

      Get in what? I don’t get it.

  • HookesLaw

    So lets see now – your headline is not only not right, it is not even wrong.

    • Russell

      Confused .com

      • tele_machus

        HL, you are coming across as a bit insane now. The first rule of trolling, as you know, is not to come over too mad. Just turn it down a bit if you want to be sucessful at playing the Tory supporter.

        • HookesLaw

          Tell that to Wolfgang Pauli. His epithet applies to numpties like you in spades.

      • HookesLaw

        Thrown 30 quid at Farage? Its you thats confused.

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