I'm no Tory, but many Conservatives I spoke to at a function last night are very alarmed at what's going on with the 1922 Committee. The 1922 is the grouping of backbench Tory MPs, which (since 1923, actually) has always represented the views of the rank and file in Parliament to the leadership.
Now there is a plan to allow ministers to attend and speak at the 1922, which would of course completely rob it of its robustness and independence. If backbenchers thought that ministers (and whips) were keeping an eye on them as they discussed Party policy, there would be no free discussion at all.
The leadership's argument is that shadow ministers attended the 1922 when the Tories were in Opposition, so what is the problem? But the fact is that when you are in government, things are entirely different. The Prime Minister and the Executive in the UK have huge powers, including powers of patronage. If they were admitted into private backbench discussions, MPs would hardly dare to raise disagreements with the leadership, as they would when in Opposition.
Worse, it seems that the new, tenderfoot MPs have been whipped to vote for the leadership's proposal.
But frankly, what business is it of the leadership how the 1922 manages its affairs? The whole point is that it is an independent voice of backbenchers.
One can argue that a rise in Capital Gains Tax, or a referendum on Alternative Vote, or any of the other dubious policies, are a matter of agreement between coalition partners and so there has to be a bit of give and take. But the 1922 is an entirely Tory affair. It is the leadership that is trying to lay down the rules and emasculate the backbenchers. It is the worst kind of central control. The kind of centralism we were supposed to have put behind us. This is alarming.
For more information on this check out Jonathan Isaby's blog here.