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Cameron seeks to curb backbench committee

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 19 May 2010

David Cameron has launched an "audacious power-grab" against his own backbench MPs, it has been revealed. The prime minister plans for ministers to break with tradition and play a role in the influential 1922 Committee.  

David Cameron

Tory MPs are to vote on reforms to the committee which has been a focal point for backbench unrest in the past.

A ballot has been called for tomorrow on whether ministers should be allowed to play a full part in the 1922 Committee.

Traditionally membership has been limited to backbenchers when the party is in government.

The move - announced at a meeting of all Tory MPs in the Commons tonight - could allow David Cameron more control over the body amid disquiet over the coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats.

Political editor Gary Gibbon writes: "David Cameron has launched an assault on the traditional role and composition of the 1922 Committee.

They are the backbench voice and bain of past Tory PM’s lives at certain points. By tradition the executive and chairman are voted on by backbenchers alone.

Ministers only attend by invitation and often to be pilloried or lobbied.

In an audacious power-grab David Cameron wants government MPs to attend as of right and to join in the vote on its officers and he's putting the whole thing to a ballot that opens in 15 minutes.

The right is fizzing, though several spoke out in the room, I was told (Brian Binley, Peter Bone, Bill Cash and John Redwood were amongst those who raised concerns).

Eric Pickles says it'll get through "no doubt." The two candidates for the chairmanship of the 1922 Committee only got 20 minutes’ notice of the changes.

This is another lesson from Tony Blair’s reforms pre-97 trying to make sure conference was reformed (emasculated) so it couldn’t be ambushed regularly.

David Cameron has served notice on his troops that he is not going to take their inevitable restlessness lying down. "He's stoking up hatred" said one senior former minister. One MP said: "Welcome to Albania."

The 1922 Committee is due to elect its new chairman next Thursday, the day after the coalition government unveils its first Queen's Speech.

It is expected to be a contest between Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway - the current vice-chairman - and Graham Brady.

Mr Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West, quit the Conservative frontbench in 2007 in protest at the leadership's attitude towards grammar schools.

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone was among a small number who openly criticised the plans for reform at the meeting tonight. Bill Cash and former minister John Redwood are also said to have expressed concerns."

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