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A 1922 Committee Chairman should be elected as soon as possible

Ben Brogan reports on his blog here that a "formal channel" involving senior members of the 1922 Committee may be set up to communicate Conservative MPs' views to the Party leadership during the next few days.

Brogan specifically names Richard Ottoway, a Vice-Chairman of the '22 during the last Parliament, and John Whittingdale, the other Vice-Chairman, as "in effect the acting Chairmen of the '22".

I've a lot of time for both men - indeed, I voted for them when the last '22 elections came round.  The first was on the "left" ticket, the second on the "right".

But the suggestion of a formal channel raises as many questions as it answers.

As I wrote earlier this week here, former Executive members of the '22 Committee from the last Parliament who've been re-elected are due to meet soon - tomorrow afternoon, in fact.

They will consider whether or not to bring forward the election of a new Chairman from its present date, which is sometime at the end of the month - almost two weeks after the new Parliament convenes for the first time on May 18.

Were the election not to be brought forward, and a formal channel to be set up during the interim, a question would arise: what legitimacy would such a channel have?

After all, almost half the newly-elected Conservative MPs are Commons virgins.  '22 Executive officers elected during the last Parliament can't really claim to represent them.

Furthermore, the suggestion of a formal channel raises a further problem, namely: how should such a channel be constituted?

It could just consist of the two former Vice-Chairmen.  But if all former officers from the last Executive are included, then Chris Chope, the former Secretary, could claim a place in the formal channel.

So, too, could that Executive's members, in which the centre-right of the Party is dominant.  It included, for example, David Amess, Peter Bone, Philip Davies, and Graham Brady, himself a candidate for the Chairmanship.

In short, the best vehicle to communicate backbenchers' views to the leadership would be a new '22 Chairman and Executive - one endorsed by all Tory MPs, including the new intake.

That's why, given the importance of the issues at stake, such a Chairman and Executive should be elected as soon as possible.

Paul Goodman


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