What is the 1922 Committee?

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Rumours are swirling around Westminster of a leadership coup against Theresa May with Owen Paterson the latest MP to say he has written to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady.

But what do we know about the historic group?

– What is the 1922 Committee?

Also known as “the ’22″, the committee of all backbench Conservative MPs meets weekly when the House of Commons is sitting. When the party is in opposition, frontbenchers are allowed to attend, although the leader cannot.

When the party is in government and the leader attends, members are said to bang their desks in approval when the chief arrives.

POLITICS Tory Vote of confidence
Conservative MPs can write to the 1922 Committee to trigger a vote of no confidence (Johnny Green/PA)

The committee takes its name from a meeting of Conservative MPs on October 19 1922. The MPs successfully ended the party’s coalition with the Liberals, bringing down the government of David Lloyd George. The resulting general election was won by the Tories.

– Who is in charge?

The ’22 has an 18-member executive committee with a chairman, usually a senior MP, elected by committee members. The incumbent chairman is Sir Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who was appointed in May 2010.

GM crops
Owen Paterson says he has written to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady (PA)

The committee keeps the party informed of the backbenchers’ mood and opinion on party business. The chairman has considerable influence within the Parliamentary Conservative Party and oversees the election of a new leader.

A leader who loses the confidence of the ’22 is likely to find themselves in a precarious position as Cabinet ministers take the committee’s views seriously.

– What has it done?

In October 2003 Iain Duncan Smith was dumped as leader after he lost a confidence vote by 75 votes to 90.

– What is all the talk about 48 letters?

One way in which a group of rebels could mount a leadership challenge to Mrs May is by calling a vote of no confidence, which would require 15% of of the parliamentary party to back the idea. This would mean 48 letters would have to be sent to Sir Graham supporting the idea and then a simple majority (158) supporting the motion of no confidence.

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