Annals Britannica the historical website composed by Tom Bliss records the beginning of the Conservative Party backbencher’s committee 100 years ago this year. Today that committee meets to consider if the MPs have confidence in Boris Johnson as leader of the party.
Revolt in 1922
At the end of 1918 a Conservative and Liberal coalition government was formed by the prime minister Lloyd George, who had led the country to victory in The Great War. The Liberal party had fragmented between alliance supporters of Lloyd George and those who remained loyal to their previous leader Herbert Asquith. Conservatives held a large majority and they soon became uneasy with Lloyd George when reports spread that he was corruptly selling peerages and honours for cash.
Their discontent spilled over when concern was expressed that Lloyd George, encouraged by the Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, was close to provoking an outbreak of hostilities with Turkey by issuing an ultimatum that the Turks, who were at war with Greece, must respect the neutral status of the Dardanelles. The press and public feared that a major war was being risked for an inadequate cause.
Carlton Club Meeting
A meeting of Conservative MPs was held at the Carlton Club in October and they voted against continuing the coalition. Their leader, Chancellor of the Exchequer Austen Chamberlain resigned to be succeeded by Bonar Law. The party withdrew from the government and won a large majority at the General Election which followed. The Liberal vote was severely reduced and the party never won power again.
Churchill lost his seat in the election and realising the Liberals were finished, he re-joined the Conservative Party, but was regarded with suspicion until, as prime minister in the War years 1940-45, he won over his critics.
Some MPs continued to meet as a dining club to discuss ideas. In 1926 all Conservative backbench MPs were invited to join the group and, ever since, the 1922 Committee has been the forum where backbench Conservatives make their views and wishes known. It adopted its name in memory of the fateful meeting at the Carlton Club. The original Carlton Club in Pall Mall was destroyed by bombing during the war and has been succeeded by the present club in St James.