In news that will only surprise deranged Boris-haters, reamainiacs and conspiracists, Graham Brady has confirmed Boris did have the support to make the final round of the Conservative leadership contest. Speaking to the BBC, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee confirmed Boris had over 100 MP supporters and simply decided not to stand. If Boris had made the ballot, he almost certainly would have won…
As the officer responsible for the contest, and one who remained neutral throughout, Brady is the authoritative source on the matter. This only strengthens Boris’s claims that his decision not to stand was motivated by concerns over party unity.
The coronation of Sunak has caused widespread discontent amongst Tory members, many of whom are now jumping ship to Reform UK. Not the ideal way to establish Conservative unity…
The amiable young officer from Queensland regulating entry to Committee Room 14 asked if HM’s Press Corps had any questions. “No! We’ve done leadership announcements before,” a sketch-writer said. “Many, many times before.”
Would this be the last for a while? Not if Penny had made the – she’s quit. Word went down the line sparking a wildfire competition. Penny’s dropped. Penniless. Penny’s in heaven. Penny’s Lame.
MPs made a late entry to the big room. Graham Brady and the other top dogs entered through the upper entrance and the gathering stilled. He spoke. “As the Returning Officer in the leadership election, we have received one nomination.” The room rumbled so loudly you couldn’t hear who had won. It had to be inferred.
Turning into Westminster Hall this evening, Guido fell in behind half a dozen big, broad-backed, black-suited men walking through the gloom. This was the Executive of the 1922 Committee. They had the form and figure of gangland bosses, men who ran the racket.
The Reservoir Dogs mounted the steps at the end and paused. The biggest dog said, “We’re a little early.” They stood where they stopped under the stained glass of St Stephen. It would have been possible to loiter and eavesdrop. Report their secrets, their plans. But remembering what happened to Mr Brown, Mr Blonde and Mr Blue (the 22 Executive is as pitiless as it is ruthless) Guido walked down to the waiting media.
Graham Brady, the chairman of the board, is a discreet man. So discreet that it was impossible to hear him unless you were crouched underneath with a microphone and a headset. A nearby journalist revealed Brady’s secret – that each Tory candidate for leader would need 100 nominations to run, and by Monday 2pm.
A third of the party’s MPs. Signed up. The organisation needed to do that is considerable. Not many candidates can summon 100 MPs over the weekend. Can Boris, even with his talent for organisation?
But even more important, would he want to?
In Boris’ world, disaster is an opportunity for further disasters so it is worth going through those, as he must be himself – even as you are reading these words.
First: Can he afford it? A house in Herne Hill is going to cost in the modest millions. That is a bagatelle to a man making £150,000 for an after-dinner speech (they get the dinner free, you know) but it is an impossible burden for a man making £150,000 a year (and paying for his own dinner).
Second: He still has a Partygate investigation hanging over him and the Privileges Committee is yet to sit in judgment on the case. That committee is chaired by Chris Bryant whose answer to the question, “Did he torture him and cut off his ear?” is: “Is he a Tory?”
Third: If he got the nominations (pretty likely) and ravished the membership (even more likely), would he be the unity candidate the party needs (unlikely)? If he and the party struggled in the polls, watch all the old fissures and fractures open up again, like horrible, medieval wounds.
And in the wider sense, is Cakery enough to win in a recession, a cost of living crisis, a declining economy? Let Them Eat Cakery has its limitations.
So, will Boris run? It’ll be a brave man who says he will or he won’t. Nothing is predictable anymore.
Graham Brady has just been escorted into the back door of No. 10, with Downing Street confirming that he’s meeting the Prime Minister. The Telegraph reports there was no meeting planned in her diary. The meeting of the two comes as ITV’s Paul Brand reports One Nation Tory MPs have been meeting this morning “to try and coalesce around a single candidate to replace Liz Truss.” May just be a lot more noise without any movement. Eyebrow-raising nonetheless…
UPDATE: Downing Street saying Truss requested the meeting herself…
UPDATE 12:25 – Therese Coffey enters Downing Street
UPDATE 12:49 – Jake Berry enters Downing Street
This morning The Times reported that the forthcoming 1922 Committee election is being seen as a “proxy leadership election” on Boris Johnson, given the outcome could decide whether or not the committee changes rules to allow a second confidence vote inside the current 12-month safety period. The paper said the elections for the 18 MPs who make up the executive are due to take place “soon”. Guido understands figures expect the election to be held within the next month, ahead of the Summer recess.
Last year, Chairman Graham Brady was challenged by PM loyalist Heather Wheeler. While Brady won, and the voting figures were never released, it was claimed the result was “close”. It will be more difficult for the PM to find a loyalist to put up as a challenger to Brady this time, however, given the number of loyalists who have been promoted onto the government payroll over the last year. Wheeler herself is now a senior Cabinet Office minister; just last week her campaign manager for the last ’22 election, Selaine Saxby, was appointed a PPS to Simon Clarke in the Treasury. Given another reshuffle on the horizon; 148 MPs backing the vote of no confidence; and ministers not being allowed to vote; even if No. 10 could find a candidate they’d surely struggle to mount an effective campaign.
If Brady doesn’t face a challenge from a Boris loyalist, there’s also the possibility that his denial of plans to change the rules could provoke a hard-line Boris opponent to run on a platform of allowing rule changes. A member of the committee – not someone entirely loyal towards the PM – told Guido that “most people” they’ve spoken to, even those who voted against him on June 6th, think it would be wrong to change the rules, as it would be “incredibly divisive and unnecessary”…
“It’s not something that we as an executive have discussed at all in this parliament. There was a point in the previous parliament when those discussions took place at length, we ended up without changing the rule. Obviously, I’ve reflected quite a lot on this, because of the amount of speculation has been in the media. Of course, it is technically possible that laws can be changed in the future. And it’s possible that rules can be changed in the future. But I think it’s important we say the rule that is in place, and is likely to remain in place is that there is a year’s period of grace following a confidence vote.”