What is the 1922 Committee?
The 1922 Committee is made up of all backbench Conservative MPs, and was originally formed on the initiative of new Conservative MPs elected at the 1922 general election. The Committee is an important caucus within the Conservative Party and meets weekly when Parliament is sitting.
The Committee also draws up the rules and oversees the processes for both challenging the leader of the Conservative Party, and the first stage of electing a new leader. In the former case, 15% of Conservative MPs (currently 54) must submit letters of no confidence to the Chair of 1922 Committee (Sir Graham Brady), at which point a vote of no confidence is called. Only the Chair knows how many letters have been sent in before the threshold is reached. If the leader fails to gain a simple majority in a confidence vote they must step down and a leadership contest is launched. If they win, they cannot be formally challenged for another year under current rules. Theresa May survived such a vote in December 2018 but realised by summer 2019 her position was no longer tenable and announced her intention to stand down, even though she could not be challenged at the time through these processes.
The first stage of a Conservative leadership election involves ‘shortlisting’ candidates through a series of votes among Conservative MPs, in which those who fail to pass a certain threshold of votes are eliminated – until only two candidates remain. All Conservative Party members then get a vote in the final run-off, which the 1922 Committee does not oversee.
The 1922 Committee’s rules around leadership contests and elections are not public and can be changed. For example, it was reported that the Committee was considering reducing the minimum gap between no confidence votes from twelve months to six.