Labour needs its own 1922 Committee

Why shouldn’t Labour have its own backbench committee?

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

David Cameron's attempted reforms to the 1922 Committee may have led some Tory MPs to compare him to Robert Mugabe and Kim Jong-il, but his efforts were really a bid to turn the backbench group into the Conservative equivalent of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Cameron eventually backed down and ruled that while ministers would be allowed to attend meetings, they would not vote for executive positions. Yet the presence of frontbenchers at the meeting is still likely to mute debate and, as Tim Montgomerie has written, it is rather like inviting the management to "sit in on all of the private meetings on the shop floor".

But throughout this debate, I've yet to hear anyone ask why Labour doesn't have its own backbench committee. The principle of a backbench forum, where MPs can discuss and debate issues without fear of ministerial interference, is a good one. The creation of a 2010 Committee would go some way to reversing the progressive centralisation of the party under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

May I modestly suggest that at least one of the leadership candidates take up this proposal?

Special offer: get 12 issues of the New Statesman for just £5.99 plus a free copy of "Liberty in the Age of Terror" by A C Grayling.

George Eaton is senior online editor of the New Statesman.