THE 1922 Committee may not be a name you’re familiar with – but they play a crucial role in ousting Prime Ministers who have lost the confidence of their party.
Made up of backbench Tory MPs, the group is critical for any aspiring leader of the Conservatives.
What is the 1922 Committee?
The 1922 Committee is a group of backbench Conservative MPs who meet every week when the House of Commons is sitting to discuss party matters.
Formerly known as the Conservative Private Members’ Committee, “The 22” allows less senior members of the Tory party to air their concerns, report on constituency work and co-ordinate legislative agendas.
The committee then meets every month with the party leader and gives an update on opinions within the party.
All this is done without fear of reprisal from Cabinet ministers (or Shadow Cabinet frontbenchers if the Tories are in opposition) because they are not permitted to be formal members.
Only since 2010 have frontbenchers been given an open invitation to attend meetings.
They are still under the control of the party whips, so their ability to stoke insurrection is partly limited.
But it is the Committee that assesses, organises and ballots on leadership challenges meaning its power when called upon, can be huge.
This happened when chair Graham Brady received enough votes to bring a motion of no confidence against Theresa May on December 12, 2018.
The move ultimately failed, with May winning with a majority of 83, with 200 Conservative MPs voting for her to remain, and 117 voting against her.
The result meant she could be challenged through the same mechanism for a year, although critics said winning only 63 per cent of the vote left her without a strong mandate.
However, on May 24, 2019, Mrs May resigned her position.
Who are the members of the 1922 Committee?
The 1922 Committee has a 16-member executive that organises weekly meetings and other business.
They earned the nickname “men in suits” or “men in grey suits” in the 1980safter prompting the resignation of Margaret Thatcher.
Former Chair Graham Brady stood down in May 2019, but continued on as acting chair.
A full list of the current members:
- SirGraham Brady (Acting Chair)
- Dame Cheryl Gillan (Joint Vice-Chair)
- Sir Charles Walker (Joint Vice-Chair)
- Bob Blackman (Executive Secretary)
- Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Treasurer)
- Kemi Badenoch
- Sir Bernard Jenkin
- John Lamont
- Pauline Latham
- Jeremy Lefroy
- Sheryll Murray
- Mark Pawsey
- Alec Shelbrooke
- John Stevenson
- Bill Wiggin
- William Wrag
How does the 1922 Committee carry out leadership challenges?
Unless the leader steps down voluntarily, a leadership challenge usually begins with a vote of no confidence being called.
This is triggered when 15 per cent of Tory MPs write a letter to the 1922 Committee chairman.
It takes 48 letters to be submitted to trigger a vote.
This last happened when former chair Graham Brady announced this minority had been reached on December 12, 2018.
And before that, the last time was in 2003, when 25 MPs wrote to spark a vote on then leader Iain Duncan Smith, who was ousted a day later.
Where does the 1922 Committee get its name from?
The 1922 Committee was actually founded in 1923.
But its name comes from a famous meeting the previous year in which Conservative MPs called for the party to pull out of the coalition with the Liberals, led by PM David Lloyd George.
This move triggered a General Election which the Conservatives then won.
The committee first started out as a private dining club but quickly expanded and by 1926 all Conservative backbench MPs were permitted to be members.