1922 Election Chooses New Chairman
The former Tory defence minister Sir Archie Hamilton has been elected chairman of the powerful 1922 Backbench Committee of Conservative MPs.
Sir Archie, 55, a former parliamentary private secretary to Margaret Thatcher, has much of the support of the party's right-wing.
He was chosen amid growing disarray within the party following its election defeat. Sir Archie will oversee the contest between the six candidates for the leadership of the party.
Immediately after his election, he said talks about the contest for a successor to John Major would take place tomorrow with an early meeting of the committee executive.
Sir Archie said he did not yet know the date for the leadership contest and the 1922 executive would meet tomorrow to discuss any proposals for changes in the voting rules, followed by a full committee meeting of MPs.
Sir Geoffrey Johnson-Smith and John Butterfill were both elected vice-chairmen of the committee. Peter Emery is treasurer with Marion Roe and Michael Mates joint secretaries.
After a complex round of voting, which took nearly an hour, Sir Archie emerged on to the committee corridor of the Commons to tell reporters his election was a "very great honour. I hope I meet up to the expectations of the committee".
With a growing clamour for more party activists to have a vote, Sir Archie, who has resisted calls for an immediate change in the rules, said he would be discussing proposals for change with chairman of the National Union Robin Hodgson.
The issue of reforming the party has dominated the elections. Many leading Tories are unhappy that only MPs may elect the leader, arguing that the grassroots of the party should have a greater say.
Among the senior backers of reform are the party chairman, Brian Mawhinney, and leadership candidates Stephen Dorrell and William Hague. Dr Mawhinney has suggested that local constituency party chairmen should be given 15 per cent of the vote. He also said that such a change could be introduced without delaying the contest.
John Redwood, another leadership contender who challenged John Major in 1995, has urged the party to decide "quickly" on the method of electing the leader. He said there were just two alternatives: retaining the present system or introducing One Member, One Vote in addition to the votes of Tory MPs.
Sir Archie was a councillor for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. He was a Government whip for four years, before becoming a junior Defence Minister from 1986-87.
Then he became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher, before being appointed Minister of State for the Armed Forces.
In addition to defence, his other specialised interests include finance, economic policy and trade and industry issues. Sir Archibald is married with three children.