A battle for one of the Conservative Party’s most powerful positions is coming to a head amid claims Boris Johnson is plotting to install a loyalist and oust a vocal critic.
The great Conservative Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Conservative backbench MPs committee since 2010, faces the challenge of a former deputy minister, Heather Wheeler.
MPs have told Sky News the Prime Minister is keen to remove Sir Graham over his public criticism of coronavirus lockdowns in TV and radio interviews and newspaper articles and his frequent rebellions during votes in the House of Commons.
One of the most influential positions in the Conservative Party, with the power to make or break ministerial careers and even topple prime ministers, is the president of the “22”, the shop steward of the Conservative backbenchers. .
Its executive committee was traditionally known as “the men in gray suits” who, according to political folklore, had the power to hand a failing party leader “a glass of whiskey and a pearl-handled revolver in a dark room.”
Government sources have denied being involved in Ms Wheeler’s campaign and only Tory backbench MPs are allowed to vote in the election, with the result expected on Wednesday.
“Brady is in danger,” a senior lawmaker who was a minister under David Cameron and Theresa May told Sky News.
“Wheeler mobilized the 2015, 2017 and 2019 start-ups with the idea that she is change.
“Some 2019 intake MPs said Graham Brady was aloof and“ didn’t talk to backbench MPs or ask our point of view and he was supposed to be our shop steward. ”Even though it wasn’t is not true, there is a perception.
“I think the message has gone very, very informally that the government would like a change and so the ambitious are listening.”
But the MP added: “Always remember that this is a potentially very duplicate audience.”
In an email to Tory MPs, Altrincham and Sale West MP Sir Graham said he would support “the independence of backbench MPs”, that he “has shown discretion and discretion. integrity “and that he is a” trusted confidante “of his fellow deputies.
But in an attack on Sir Graham, Derbyshire South MP Wheeler said in her letter to Tory MPs that she wanted to resolve disputes between ministers and backbenchers behind closed doors.
“I don’t just want to use my position to promote my point of view,” she wrote pointedly. “I want to advance my colleagues’ point of view and solve the issues that interest them. I want to listen and throw a party that works as a team.”
In recent months, Sir Graham has infuriated government ministers with his increasingly hostile criticism of the Prime Minister’s lockdown measures during interventions inside and outside Parliament.
During a lockdown debate last November, he said: “I wonder if the government really has the right to take these steps.
“What concerns me most is that the government is going too far in the private and family lives of our constituents.
“I think there may be unintentional arrogance in assuming the government has the right to do this.”
In a Daily Mail article, Sir Graham also wrote: “The government’s response to the coronavirus has seriously undermined common sense.
“Faith in the judgment of ordinary citizens has been replaced by endless coercion and instruction from the authorities.”
And in an interview with Sky News earlier this year attacking a government ban on UK citizens from traveling abroad, he said: “When I was little, preventing people from traveling abroad was something thing the Soviet Union was doing. “
However, Sir Graham has already overcome opposition from the Conservative leadership. When he was elected president in 2010, he defeated Mr Cameron’s favorite candidate, Richard Ottaway, by 126 to 85.
Mr Brady, as he then was, left the Tory bench in 2007 due to Mr Cameron’s opposition to high schools and then urged him to form a minority administration rather than a coalition with the Liberals -democrats.
After Brady’s election, Mr. Cameron retaliated, attempting to increase his control over the 1922 committee by proposing that ministers become full members, with the right to vote in the election of the president.
The decision was passed by 168 to 118 votes, but a compromise was later worked out whereby ministers and whips would remain members of the 1922 committee, but without voting on the chair or standing as officials.
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