Tory MPs' message this evening at the '22 on IPSA: "Sort it - or Cameron will regret it"
By Paul Goodman
Neither Paul Waugh nor Michael Crick understated their accounts of the 1922 Committee proceedings earlier this evening. "I've never seen a front-bencher mauled so badly," said one source. "It was pretty brutal. There's real anger, despair and despondency. Basically, the message was: 'Sort it - or Cameron will regret it'."
The subject was IPSA. The speaker was Sir George Young, the Leader of the Commons - an intelligent and experienced operator. That he got such a reception is disturbing news for the leadership.
I'm told that Adam Afriye, Brian Binley, Peter Bone, Nadine Dorries, Richard Drax, George Freeman, Simon Hart, Chris Heaton-Harris, Kris Hopkins, Stewart Jackson, Ann Main, Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Alec Shebrooke, Sir John Stanley, Desmond Swayne and Charles Walker spoke. The Swayne detail is significant because he's the Prime Minister's PPS. Apparently, very few of the comments were supportive (another understatement).
9.30pm update: I'm now told that Nick Du Bois, Graham Evans, Mark Pritchard, and Nadhim Zadhawi also spoke, and that one senior backbencher described the leadership, his voice "dripping with venom", as "the officer class hanging the troops out to dry".
Essentially, three factors seem be morphing -
- Fury among some MPs at being, as they see it, being owed or (having been) up to five-figure sums by IPSA. They believe that its expenses system, though improved, is still deeply flawed.
- Resentment of the leadership by some MPs over the way it dealt with the expenses scandal during the last Parliament. As they see it, Cameron sacrificed his colleagues to save his reputation.
- Distrust of the leadership. This comes from various quarters. There's quite a lot from the Right over the EU, tax and crime: Ken Clarke's announcement on prisons policy won't have helped. Some MPs still believe that they were bounced into the Coalition on misleading terms. Many remember Cameron's attempt to merge the '22 with his front bench team. And there are, inevitably, those who've been overlooked when it comes to promotion.
My trade-off between getting a report up quickly and exploring the matter thoroughly allows only one more thought. Team Cameron would be well and truly finished if it came to be seen as a clique of out-of-touch Trustafarians - remote from the lives, problems, hopes, fears and experiences of ordinary voters.
The Conservative poll ratings at the moment suggest that this image hasn't captured the public. It is in many ways simplistic, unfair and misleading. But the consequences for the leadership if voters come to believe it are dire. And if Conservative MPs do, these will be even worse.