Conservative backbench election

Small election; not many dead.

There was little excitement to be had from the elections to the executive of the Conservatives' backbench 1922 Committee, which saw all its previous membership returned unopposed, with the sole change coming from Nigel Evans's replacement of Guto Bebb, who stood down.

It is probably not a surprise that, with less than a year to go until the General Election, there were no contests.

Backbench MPs would rather be spending more time on constituency campaigning than on internal politics within the Westminster village.

But there is an important political point here: the '22 Executive returned at these elections will be the one which convenes after the next election, and which will have a decisive influence if David Cameron seeks to enter a second coalition.

My impression is that the executive is not exactly a coalicious bunch and should David Cameron fail to achieve an outright majority in the next House of Commons, most would prefer to form a minority government than cut another deal with Nick Clegg.

The Conservative footsloggers have marked the lesson of 2010, where Nick Clegg had to pass through an exhaustive "triple lock process" winning backing across his party, including from a special conference, before a Coalition could be agreed.

No-one was in a position to accuse him of railroading his troops into the deal. The Conservatives, by contrast entered the post-election negotiations with the Chair of the '22 vacant, following the departure from the Commons of the long-serving Chairman, Sir Michael (now Lord) Spicer, and before the election of his formidable replacement, Graham Brady.

They had no backbench tribune in a position to raise a majestic hand and stop the Cameron coalition bandwagon in its tracks.

Next time, '22 sources insist, things will be different. There will be a process, and it is far from clear that Tory MPs will accept entreaties from their Leader to enter into a Coalition Mk2.

On the contrary, if David Cameron can't deliver an outright majority, his leadership will be in danger - and the prospect of going to his troops and risking the answer "No" might deter him from popping the question in the first place.

* The full executive is: Graham Brady (Chairman),Charles Walker and John Whittingdale (Vice-Chairmen), Brian Binley (Treasurer), Nick de Bois and Robert Buckland (Secretaries), plus Steve Baker, James Duddridge, Nigel Evans, Robert Halfon, Simon Hart, Bernard Jenkin, Jason McCartney, Karl McCartney, Sheryll Murray, Priti Patel, Christopher Pincher and Heather Wheeler.

Mark D'Arcy Article written by Mark D'Arcy Mark D'Arcy Parliamentary correspondent

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