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The 1922 committee: inside the Conservatives’ assassination bureau

The committee is adept at removing its prime ministers. What goes down when the chips are up?

The Conservative Private Members Committee, informally known as the 1922 Committee (or the ’22), is the Tory confessional, its trade union and backbenchers’ common room. If that makes it sound chaotic (and it sometimes is) it is also the assassination bureau that felled Margaret Thatcher, and, more recently, three prime ministers in four years: Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. Will it come for Rishi Sunak before the next election?

In this week’s richly detailed and highly entertaining long read, magazine writer Tanya Gold reports on the secretive committee’s inner workings, hearing from decision-makers past and present about what happens when a leader loses the party’s confidence. “The ’22 can be turgid for months, even years,” she writes. “But people talk about Committee Room 14 during a leadership crisis as they might about seeing Bruce Springsteen, or a riot.” And over the next 18 months, they could be busy.

Written by Tanya Gold and read by Rachel Cunliffe. 

This article originally appeared in the 21-27 July 2023 edition of the New Statesman, and you can read the text version here

If you enjoyed this episode, you might also enjoy The making of Prince William by Tanya Gold.

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