Conservative Party must ‘pull together’, new 1922 chairman says

The new chairman of the backbench 1922 committee has said the Conservative Party must “pull together” and unite after last week’s historic defeat.

Bob Blackman, whose Harrow East constituency is the safest Conservative seat in the country after the July 4 election, said his party needed “to win back the trust of the people of this country”.

Asked about his role representing backbench Conservative MPs, Blackman told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “One of the issues is there’s very different skills required in opposition.”

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Blackman’s election on Tuesday evening was marred by controversy after some MPs were unable to take part in the vote as they arrived too late. Party whips had sent out a message with the wrong finishing time.

The backbench 1922 committee, or simply “The 22”, organises matters that are not part of the Conservative frontbench’s responsibilities, such as leadership contests.

Accordingly, Blackman will now play a key role in deciding the timetable to elect a new Tory leader to succeed Rishi Sunak.

There has been a debate within the Conservative Party over whether Sunak’s successor as leader should be chosen soon, or whether a longer contest should take place — even lasting until the party conference in September.

Blackman is understood to prefer that a contest have a longer timetable. 

Sir Graham Brady, the previous chair of the 1922 committee, became well known for his visits to Downing Street.

As the voice of the Tory backbenchers, he played a key role in dispatching Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss after they lost the confidence of the Tory parliamentary party.

On Tuesday evening, following a meeting in a House of Commons committee room, Blackman was elected as chair following competition from Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the North Cotswolds.

Blackman won by 61 votes to 37 — with 98 votes cast.

After the announcement, Blackman stressed that the Conservatives could now “start to rebuild our parliamentary party” so it is a “fighting force” in a “fighting position” to “deliver” a Conservative government at the next election.

However, one Conservative MP, Mark Francois, decried the voting as “bent”, storming out of the committee room.

“The 1922 committee competency levels have reached a new low. That is saying something”, he said. 

He claimed whips said voting closed at 6pm, but he was turned away before this time.

Senior Conservatives Jeremy Hunt, Sir Edward Leigh and and former Chief Whip Julian Smith were also reportedly refused a vote. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website. Subscribe to our daily newsletter for all the latest election news and analysis.