Eminences grises

Image: bronze sculpture by Glynn Williams in Parliament Square, London, of former British prime minister David Lloyd George (the only Welshman to date to have become Prime Minister).

From Wikipedia:

“The 1922 Committee, formally known as the Conservative Private Members’ Committee, is the parliamentary group of the Conservative Party in the UK House of Commons. The committee, consisting of all Conservative backbencher MPs, meets weekly while parliament is in session and provides a way for backbenchers to co-ordinate and discuss their views independently of frontbenchers. Its executive membership and officers are by consensus limited to backbench MPs, although since 2010 frontbench Conservative MPs have an open invitation to attend meetings. The committee can also play an important role in choosing the party leader. The group was formed in 1923 but became important after 1940. It speaks frankly to the party leader / prime minister. Whips are present but their role is limited to announcing future business and reporting questions and complaints to the chief whip.

The name does not, as is sometimes wrongly supposed, stem from the 19 October 1922 Carlton Club meeting, in which Conservative MPs successfully demanded that the party withdraw from the coalition government of David Lloyd George, and which triggered the 1922 general election. The committee was formed after the election, in April 1923.

The MPs who founded the committee were not the same as those who had taken the decision to end the 1916–22 coalition government. It began as a small dining group of new members elected in 1922. The committee soon developed into a *ginger group of active backbenchers. After the 1923 and 1924 elections, the membership expanded as more new Conservative MPs were elected, and in 1926 all backbench MPs were invited to become members. It became known as the Conservative Private Members’ Committee. Consequently, it became a platform for the majority rather than a focus for discontent.

The term “men in suits” or “men in grey suits”, meaning a delegation of Conservative MPs who tell a party leader that it is time for them to step down without forcing an open challenge, is often used in reference to members of the 1922 Committee. It became popular after the resignation of Margaret Thatcher.

*formal or informal group within an organisation seeking to influence its direction and activity. The term comes from the phrase ginger up, meaning to enliven or stimulate.”

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