Tories in turmoil: The 1922 Committee elections
The 1922 Committee elections have given us a glimpse into the real turmoil the Tories are in. Behind the blunders and incompetence of an increasingly unpopular government, a civil war is waging on the Tory benches.
On one side are Cameron and Osborne. Desperate to influence the outcome of the elections and take control of the 1922 Committee, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have backed the modernising 301 Group slate. On the another side are the core Tory traditionalists, who are enraged to see the Prime Minster attempting yet again – he tried to effectively abolish the Committee in 2010 – to infiltrate the committee and keep it in line with the frontbench. And lastly, the “anti-factionalist” side which see all the infighting in the party as dangerous and feel that Cameron needs to clamour for unity at all costs.
The bitter fight is being fleshed out within an already fractious and disunited party. The EU, same-sex marriage and immigration are only a handful of contentious issues that are dividing the traditionalist Tories and the modernising ones, such as the 301 Group.
The 301 Group, which was first set up by Kris Hopkins MP and Jessica Lee MP, is made up almost entirely, bar two MPS, of the 2010 intake of Tory MPs who see the image of the Tories as the “nasty party” as deeply dangerous and propound a more socially liberal approach to issues such as same-sex marriage. They see the traditionalists as “the disloyal old guard”. The Group is made up of the new generation of Tory MPs– such as Nick Boles, who co- founded the think-tank Policy Exchange and Cabinet Minister Francis Maude’s PPS Angie Bray – that are dissatisfied with the values of the old guard.
The traditional Tories, who many Tory MPs, commentators and even David Cameron himself, see as a threat to the chances of the Conservatives winning the next election, are angered at issues such as immigration, the EU and welfare reform not being tacked effectively. The media cite the cause of this frustration and anger is because the Liberal Democrats are limiting the Tory agenda; this is simply not the case, in their eyes David Cameron is not right-wing enough, with or without the Liberal Democrats. Indeed, an anonymous letter from a Tory MP has been circulated calling for Tory MPs not to vote for the Cameron and Osborne -backed 301 group slate.
Things have come to a head in the last few days, with news that Nicholas Soames and Tracy Crouch quit the 1922 Committee in protest at the factionalism of the elections.
Let’s be clear, the Tories are in a mess; Cameron looks weak and the majority of his backbenchers are unhappy: Cameron knows he is in a vulnerable position. The polls are going from bad to worse for the Coalition, he and Osborne are losing their economic credibility and Ed Miliband is becoming a growing and threatening force, showing himself to be a calm, collected and clever leader opposite Cameron’s arrogant and angry demeanour in PMQs.
The Tories are in trouble and these elections are only the beginning of a long battle within the Party. Only time will tell if Cameron is able to lead a united Party into the next General Election, but when Cameron is at the centre of the squabbling, it is hard to see him being able to do so.