The 1922 Committee by Philip Norton: the Tories’ saviours | EUROtoday

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The 1922 Committee might not excite most individuals, however this account of its first century – for, as Philip Norton writes, it was truly based in 1923 – displays impeccable scholarship and a level of attraction. Norton has not solely, as a Conservative peer, attended the weekly conferences of the ’22 (as it’s extensively recognized), however has studied numerous paperwork about it. His guide is just the second to cowl the historical past of this organised group of Conservative parliamentarians. The first, by Philip Goodhart, was printed for the fiftieth anniversary, however when Goodhart was writing, in 1973, the ’22 had barely begun to flex its muscle – certainly, it had hardly realised that it had had any muscle to flex.

The ’22 was the brainchild of Gervais Rentoul, who turned the MP for Lowestoft at the 1922 election. In these days, there was no debate about what the chief of the Conservative Party did: he did what he and his shut associates preferred. Rentoul’s concept was to kind a bunch composed solely of those that had been elected, like him, in 1922, as a way to study the ropes. As Norton factors out, like all correct Conservative establishments, the ’22 quickly advanced. It prolonged membership to the intakes of the 1923 and 1924 elections, and finally to all Conservative MPs who weren’t ministers. Much later, Conservative friends had been invited.

For a lot of its existence, it was a chance for MPs to pontificate in non-public amongst co-religionists, whether or not about grievances towards the management, or towards fellow Members harming celebration unity; however a whip was invited, and typically ministers, and messages had been conveyed about issues of potential discontent. Harold Macmillan used an tackle to the ’22 throughout the Suez disaster to pitch for the management (although Norton doesn’t quote Enoch Powell’s remark of that speech that its “sheer devilry” was “disgusting”). Sometimes ministers addressing the ’22 got here out so badly that their careers nose-dived. But it was not till the celebration deserted the “magic circle” – the means by which its leaders “emerged” slightly than had been elected, which final occurred in 1963 – that the ’22 actually grew tooth.

Part of its evolution was that its government was consulted on, after which ran, contests for the management. The first time the ’22 turned aggressive with a pacesetter was with Ted Heath, when his shedding two elections in seven months in 1974 didn’t persuade him that he may not be an excellent chief. The guidelines had been modified so that somebody who didn’t stand in the first spherical of a management poll might run in the second – which allowed Heath loyalists to return in towards Mrs Thatcher in February 1975 when, to Heath’s horror, she beat him in the first spherical, however not by sufficient to win outright, which she did in the second.

Yet it was not till the 13 years of opposition after the 1997 Blair landslide that the ’22’s claws actually got here out. It defenestrated Iain Duncan Smith; it attacked Michael Howard when he over-reacted to a speech by the celebration’s deputy chairman, Howard Flight, and slightly than simply sack him, eliminated the whip. David Cameron, when chief, noticed all who disagreed with him or questioned him as enemies to be neutralised, and tried to make the ’22 permit ministers to hitch, primarily so they might use their affect to forestall critics of his being elected. His plan backfired badly. The risk of a problem in the courts stopped him: he had no authority over the ’22, which was successfully a non-public membership, and the individual he least wished to run the ’22, Graham Brady, secured its chair.