Now Cameron will really need to watch his back
Now that Graham Brady has won chairman of the 1922 Committee by a landslide, the Tory leadership will be desperately smoothing the ruffled feathers of their own troops. Not only are many unhappy over the debacle of the botched changes to the 1922, but an even larger number are appalled at the bureaucratic madness that passes for the new, improved expenses regime.
Dave’s attempts to don his “heir to Blair” mantle by picking and winning an early fight with his more vocal backbenchers was always going to end in tears. Tony Blair rarely had any trouble getting his preferred candidate elected as chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Certainly in his first term, even the six representatives elected from the backbenches were unlikely to cause the whips too many anxious moments. In fact, it wasn’t until the 2005, post-Iraq parliament, when Blair’s power had begun to wane, that the PLP found its voice and started to elect officers who weren’t afraid to challenge the leadership on occasion. I spent nearly three years on Labour’s Parliamentary Committee under both Blair and Brown, during which time it operated as an useful brake on some of the dafter ministerial proposals and as an effective voice for backbench concerns.
Now that Cameron has, sensibly, climbed down over the 1922 changes, he has bought himself a little breathing space - though he has Brady to deal with, of course. But this row could be the first of many, as those who never liked or trusted Dave and his project have scented blood and will be tempted to flex their muscles in the future. The formidable David Davis is “on manoeuvres”, and not just over the late payment of allowances.
Senior Tory sources are also predicting serious ructions over plans to impose primary selection contests in the 200 safest seats, many of which are currently occupied by Dave’s fiercest critics. Our new Prime Minister will need to watch his back because, unlike Blair, he has never delivered an outright victory - and that gives him considerably less political capital to expend on internal battles.