Dissenting Tories pushed out of backbench committee

MPs broadly sympathetic to the leadership are elected to influential 1922 committee.

If there is one thing the Conservative Party has in ample supply at the moment, it is internal tension about the direction of travel. This was reflected in elections for the influential 1922 committee of backbench MPs last night.

The 1922 committee is seen as a barometer of backbench opinion, and gives MPs a forum to connect with the leadership. It has long been a thorn in the side of David Cameron, who caused outrage early in his premiership by attempting to reform the committee so that ministers could become full members. He eventually backed down on this move, which Gary Gibbon described as akin to "the management demanding seats on the union negotiating team".

However, it looks as if the Prime Minister might have managed to neutralise the committee, which is frequently critical of the leadership and has largely represented the party’s Eurosceptic, traditional right wing, frustrated with the compromise of coalition.

After elections for the committee last night, several long serving MPs who are critical of the coalition and Cameron’s modernising agenda were voted off, including Peter Bone and Christopher Chope. In their place, candidates from the “301” group of MPs – so called because it represents the number of MPs needed for an overall majority at the next election – were elected. These MPs, many of whom are from the 2010 intake, are broadly supportive of the leadership and believe that the 1922 committee should be modernised.

So what does this mean? Firstly, while there will be cause for celebration in both Downing Street and the Treasury, it is perhaps needless to say that this is unlikely to be the end for internal strife. Over at ConservativeHome, Paul Goodman says he is “not altogether persuaded” that allies of Cameron and George Osborne didn’t interfere in the elections, warns:

Some of those who weren't re-elected - or elected at all - may feel that they now have nothing to lose in criticising the government very strongly indeed.

As James Forsyth points out at the Spectator, this election had a 93.8 per cent turnout, making it very representative of the parliamentary party. However, no single group was victorious - some of the "old guard" hung onto their places. This says something about the state of the Tory party and the direction its members want it to go. A Guardian editorial today explains the dilemma thus:

The question that really divides the party is whether in the face of austerity it returns to an enhanced core-vote strategy of shoring up the right flank from Ukip by focusing on the traditional crime, immigration and Europe agenda, or whether to keep faith, despite the vastly altered circumstances, in Cameron's modernising programme and anchor the party to the centre-right.

As this election shows, the battle is very much yet to be won.
 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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A glossary of football’s most hackneyed phrases – and what they mean

This is the time of the season when we all get tired. Time to break out the cliches.

This is the time of the season when we all get tired. The players, poor petals, are exhausted. The refs have had enough of being shouted at. The hot-dog sellers are running out of hot dogs. And the TV commentators, bless ’em, are running out of clichés. So, between now and the end, look out for the following tired old phrases, well-worn adjectives and hackneyed descriptions, and do feel sorry for them. They know not what they are doing.

It will go right to the wire. In the case of the Prem, this isn’t even true. Leicester are as good as there. It is only true of the Championship, where three teams – Burnley, Middlesbrough and Brighton – are on 87 points each, with the fourth team miles away. Now that will go to the wire. The phrase comes from those pre-war reporters in the US who telegraphed their copy. When it didn’t get through, or they’d never filed it, being too lazy or too drunk, they would blame the technology and say, “It’s down to the wire.”

Dead men walking. This is when the pundits decide to hold a seance in the studio, taking advantage of Alan Shearer having sent us all to sleep. It also refers to Pellegrini of Man City and Hiddink of Chelsea. They have known for ages they’re dead parrots, not long for this life, with their successors lined up even while their bodies are still warm. I think a moment of silence is called for. “Dead men walking” refers only to football. Must not be used in connection with other activities, such as media. When someone is sacked on a newspaper, they immediately get sent home on gardening leave, just in case they manage to introduce a spot of subversion into the classified ads, such as: “Five underpants carefully kept; make up; red dungarees; offers considered, Kent.” (The first letters of each word give it away, tee hee.)

World class. The number-one phrase when they can’t think of any other synonyms for what was quite good. As well as goals, you now hear of world-class throw-ins, world-class goal kicks, world-class haircuts
and world-class pies in the press room at half-time, yum yum.

He’s got a hell of a left peg. That’s because he borrowed it from his mam when she was hanging out the washing.

He’s got it in his locker. The fool. Why did he leave his left peg there? No wonder he keeps falling over.

And the sub is stripped off, ready to come on. So it’s naked football now, is it?

Old-fashioned defending. There’s a whole lexicon to describe brutal tackles in which the defender kicks someone up in the air, straight to A&E.

Doing the dirty work/putting himself about/an agricultural tackle/left his calling card. Alternative clichés that every commentator has in his locker for when yet another world-class, manic, nasty, desperate physical assault is committed by a player at Sunderland, Newcastle and Norwich, currently scared shitless about going down and losing their three Bentleys.

Opened up his body. This is when an operation takes place on the field, such as open-heart surgery, to work out whether any Aston Villa player has got one. OK – it is, in fact, one of the weary commentator’s nicer compliments. He can’t actually describe what the striker did, as it was so quick, so clever, and he totally missed it, but he must have done something with his body, surely. Which isn’t even correct, either. You shoot with your feet.

Very much so. This is a period phrase, as popularised by Sir Alf Ramsey. He got it into his head he must talk proper, sound solemn, or at least like a trade union leader of the times, so instead of saying “yes” he would say “very much so”. It’s having a comeback. Listen to Glen Hoddle – I guarantee that between now and the end of the season he’ll say it ten times, whenever someone has interrupted and he wants to get back to the aperçu he was about to share with us.

Most unpredictable Premier season ever. Or so Sky is telling us, on the hour, meaning “since last season”, which was the most unpredictable one since, er, the season before that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism