Tory backbench MP Sir Charles Walker revealed in an interview with the Guardian that he and other MPs wanted to stop party members being allowed to decide the leader after MPs reduced it to two last. The intervention came as a campaign for the return of Boris Johnson’s name to the members’ ballot continued to gain momentum with more than 12,000 signatures on a petition demanding that members be given the opportunity to restore him as leader.
The episode brought back memories of how party members were allegedly dismissed as “twisting-eyed loons” by David Cameron’s friend and party ally Lord Feldman in 2013, which he denied.
It was followed by constituencies that had many of their candidate-selection powers stripped, which many say widened the gap between MPs and ordinary party members, making parliamentarians less representative of conservatism.
Sir Charles, a longtime former deputy chairman of the 1922 Committee, which oversees the rules for internal party no-confidence votes and leadership elections, insisted the contest ‘should not have approached’ the 180,000 conservative grassroots activists.
He continued: “It’s a view shared by many of my colleagues in private who wouldn’t dare say it publicly.
“MPs should be free to choose party leaders, because we know the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate much better than the members, because we serve them and work with them every day in Westminster.”
But his revelation of the secret plot to expel members sparked outrage.
Former MEP David Campbell Bannerman, a founding member of the Conservative Democracy Campaign and a major supporter of the Put Boris on the Ballot petition, said it was the 1922 committee, now chaired by Sir Graham Brady, that had had its day 100 years later. Was found.
He told Express.co.uk: “I love Charles Walker, but I fear total shame and a slap in the face from ordinary members. Membership is already down sharply as members are too often ignored and sidelined.
“To deny them the choice of a future leader is the ultimate insult. What is the point of joining the party when not only are the deputies not listened to but are increasingly sidelined.
“Boris Ballot’s petition is like Brexit in that the Democrats are reaffirming their right to be included. I am shocked at the arrogance and contempt.”
READ MORE: Boris’ petition tops 12,000 as Tory members quickly turn on MPs
He added: “Perhaps after 100 years of existence, the 1922 Committee itself needs to carefully consider its role in future selections.”
The 1922 Committee was founded to end the Premiership of David Lloyd-George and the Conservative/Liberal coalition.
He marked his century by ending Boris Johnson’s premiership and was at the center of the intrigue surrounding the leadership of David Cameron, Theresa May and Mr Johnson over the past 12 years of Conservative government with a stream of stories about Tory MPs submitting letters to Sir Graham. requiring a formal vote of confidence in their leaders.
Mr Campbell Bannerman’s reaction comes amid fury from party members over how Mr Johnson was ousted by a handful of MPs despite winning a two-thirds party mandate in 2019 and then than 14 million people in the following elections.
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There have also been concerns about the tactics and games played by Tory MPs over the years to try to cut the bottom two for members.
In 2001 MP votes were moved to prevent Michael Portillo from entering the bottom two, then in 2004 an MP coup removed Iain Duncan Smith and replaced him with Michael Howard without a contest.
In 2019, Mr Johnson’s supporters moved votes to prevent Michael Gove from entering the bottom two.
There were claims in this election that Rishi Sunak supporters were manipulating the votes and there were even allegations that Kemi Badenoch, who briefly sparked the contest, was led by Mr Gove as a spoiler candidate to split the vote. right, although this has been denied by Mr Gove and Ms Badenoch.
Prior to 2001, Conservative members did not get a vote and the leader was chosen by MPs.
This system was introduced in 1965 with the election of Sir Edward Heath and before that the leader had been chosen by the so-called Magic Circle, a secretive group of senior Tories.
Infamously, this group then led by Lord Halifax tried unsuccessfully to prevent Winston Churchill from becoming Prime Minister in 1940 during Britain’s darkest hour.
The decision to allow members a say in the latter two came following members’ continuing anger at the way Margaret Thatcher was impeached by MPs in 1990 despite overwhelming support from members of the left.
The Campaign for Conservative Democracy proposed that not only the leader be chosen by the membership, but also the president.