Move by Nicholas Soames and Tracey Crouch aimed at helping critics of Cameron targeted by 301 group in committee elections
Supporters of David Cameron hoping to oust members of the old guard from the executive of the Conservative 1922 committee have suffered a setback after two popular MPs turned against “factional” tactics.
Nicholas Soames, the veteran Tory MP who is a grandson of Winston Churchill, and Tracey Crouch, a modernising MP elected in 2010, will stand down from the 1922 executive to boost the position of critics of Downing Street who have been targeted in committee elections.
The row has erupted on the eve of the first elections to the executive of the 1922 committee in two years. Members of the 301 group of Tory MPs – the number of parliamentary seats needed to secure a majority in the next parliament – infuriated Soames and Crouch when they told the Guardian last month that they would publish a slate of candidates in a bid to remove members of the “bloody rude” old guard who have criticised David Cameron.
Soames and Crouch’s decision is expected to boost the position of Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the commons public administration committee, who the 301 group had identified as one of the old guard to be targeted.
Crouch, who had been co-opted on to the 301 slate without much consultation, said: “I feel very uncomfortable with the factionalisation of the 1922. It will lose its independence as a consequence of the leadership effectively approving a slate. I have found my time on the 1922 interesting and I am grateful for the support I have received from across the party. But I have now decided that I will focus on other priorities.”
Crouch’s anger with the 301 group is shared by other Tory MPs, some of whom met the prime minister on Monday night as part of a regular series of meetings with MPs. One MP said of the interviews by members of the 301 group with the Guardian: “Quite of a lot of colleagues have been astonished by the spite behind the briefings. We were also astonished that they kicked off a bout of factionalism on the eve of the local elections. They were quite astonishingly naive and it is backfiring on them.”
It is understood that Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, has not been amused by the manoeuvrings. Brady is understood to have asked some of the old guard targeted by the new intake to stand again for election.
In another significant move on Monday night, Nick de Bois, the MP for Enfield North, announced that he is to stand for the position of secretary of the 1922 executive, the position left vacant by the Cameron critic Mark Pritchard. De Bois hopes to stop Charlie Elphicke, a Cameron loyalist backed by the 301 group, from replacing Pritchard.
Kris Hopkins, one of the founders of the 301 group, told the Guardian: “I am confident – I am not wishing to be arrogant – that there will be seismic change in the shape and the tone and the narrative which sits in the 1922. It should be to everybody’s advantage.
“You are just going to get a new breath of fresh air coming to an establishment like this. Those new people come from a different era in British politics.”