Who Is The Powerful New Chair Of The 1922 Committee?

Tali Fraser

3 min read

While the Conservative Party was hammered at last week’s General Election, Bob Blackman was able to increase his majority. He will now play a crucial role in determining how the next Tory leader will be chosen.

On Tuesday night Bob Blackman became chair of the 1922 Committee.

Replacing Sir Graham Brady after fourteen years in the role, Blackman beat Geoffrey Clifton-Brown in a vote of Tory MPs by 24 votes.

“Thank you to my colleagues for voting for me …I’m delighted that we can now start rebuilding our party,” he told those in committee room 14 following his election.

The MP for Harrow East has served on the 1922 Committee’s executive since 2015 and was touted as CCHQ’s favourite in the contest.

Blackman is planning to review the proportion of MPs it takes to trigger a Tory leadership contest. The level is currently at 15 per cent, which comes to just 18 MPs following the party’s heavy defeat at the General Election. He wants to ensure party members have their say in any leadership race.

One new MP said the two candidates’ pitches were “effectively the same”, putting forward “a long leadership campaign to let people set their stalls and try to keep Rishi [Sunak] on in the meantime”.

Another newly elected MP shared their views and that it was “a good sign that the party is in agreement about the steps forward”.

Not all MPs were satisifed with the process, however. 

Mark Francois angrily accused Blackman of lacking a “proper mandate” in a parliament bar confrontation after mixed messaged to Tory MPs meant some of them arrived too late to cast a vote.

“Honest to God, do it [the vote] again,” Francois said. “Otherwise, people will say you haven’t got a proper mandate.”

Blackman is viewed “with admiration” for having pulled off the impressive feat of increasing his majority in an election that saw the Conservatives lose 251 seats across the country.

Blackman defeated the Labour challenger in Harrow East by less than 8,000 votes at the 2019 election but won by a larger margin of nearly 12,000 votes last Thursday. 

“He has turned what was always a very marginal seat into the strongest Tory voting constituency in the country so there is an awful lot of admiration for him,” one senior Tory said.

“And Bob is actually just seen as a decent guy and is quite well liked. He is a pretty affable soul.”

Another Tory MP said that Blackman was the right choice for a modern Parliament: “Not that people don’t like Geoffrey but he is seen as a bit more old school, whereas people see Bob as someone who appreciates and understands some of the political issues coming up.

“Bob just seems more relevant to the challenges of today.”

One MP credits Blackman’s pastoral skills having endeared him to the members of the 1922.

He also earned plaudits for his role in steering through the rebellion to amend the criminal justice bill in repealing the 200-year-old Vagrancy Act and removing parts of the bill that would criminalise rough sleeping.

A Brexiteer during the referendum, Blackman was a member of the European Research Group.

It was a case of fourth election lucky for Blackman. After twenty years as leader of Brent Council, he stepped back to stand for Harrow East in 2010 – overturning a Labour majority – having contested seats unsuccessfully in 1992, 1997 and 2005. Prior to that he was a sales manager for BT and served as a member of the Greater London Assembly.

He is married to Nicola Blackman – now a Harrow Councillor in Edgware – and lives in Wembley. Blackman is a keen fan and season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur.

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