Trouble for coalition as right-wingers elected to lead 1922 Committee
Right-wing critics of David Cameron's coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats were elected by Tory MPs to key positions on their powerful backbench committee last night.
The vote comes amid growing fears among the party's MPs that the Prime Minister made too many concessions when he stitched together the agreement. John Redwood, the former cabinet minister, broke cover yesterday to condemn the adoption of Liberal Democrat plans for a rise in capital gains tax (CGT).
Graham Brady, who was hostile to the establishment of the coalition, was elected the parliamentary party's "shop steward" as chairman of the influential 1922 Committee.
The Altrincham and Sale West MP is now certain to lead backbench resistance to the terms of the coalition, after comfortably defeating the leadership loyalist Richard Ottaway by 126 to 85 votes.
Two independent-minded right-wingers were elected vice-chairmen. They are Charles Walker, the first Tory MP to condemn Mr Cameron's plans to increase the threshold at which Parliament can be dissolved to 55 per cent, and John Whittingdale, the former political secretary to Margaret Thatcher.
Fellow right-wingers Christopher Chope, who has complained about the "massive watering-down" of Tory manifesto promises, and Mark Pritchard were elected as the 1922 Committee's two secretaries.
Mr Cameron had already revealed his anxiety over the potential for the 1922 Committee to cause problems for the Government when his coalition runs into choppy waters.
He forced through a new rule last week that changed the tradition that only backbenchers were allowed membership of the committee when the party is in power. In the face of fury over the move, he offered a compromise under which the "payroll vote" of ministers and whips remained members of the 1922, but did not vote in its elections.
Last night Mr Brady, who resigned from Mr Cameron's front bench three years ago in a row over grammar schools, said he was delighted by his victory, but pointedly referred to the "difficult circumstances" facing the Government.
He said: "My colleagues have done me a great honour and placed a great responsibility on me to work to help to make our arrangements a success in these difficult circumstances.
"My priority will be to spend as much time as I can talking and listening to all of my colleagues across the parliamentary party, especially the new intake who make up such a large part of it."
One Tory minister said last night: "The result was not too surprising given the mood in the party. But hopefully things will calm down."
During campaigning for the post Mr Brady complained that the Cameron leadership was failing to communicate with its MPs and warned that the coalition would only succeed if "we can really manage the relationships within the party effectively". Many Conservatives contrast Nick Clegg's consultation with Liberal Democrat MPs during the coalition negotiations with the lack of information they received at the time.
The election results came as the Tory rebellion against plans to raise CGT from 18 to 40 or 50 per cent gathered pace. The Conservative right wing is concerned it will punish entrepreneurs and savers.
In an open letter to the Treasury, Mr Redwood warned that sharp rises in the levy would be unfair and damage the economy.
"It would send a strange signal if a Lib-Con government decided to more than double the CGT rate set by a Labour government," he said.
"It would damage the revenues and be unfair to anyone who saves, is prudent, or who ventures their money for the greater good."
He proposed a "tapering" system for the taxation of windfalls, with a 30 per cent rate for gains over two years, 20 per cent for three years, 10 per cent for four years.
"I have been swamped with support for these suggestions, both from around the country and from Conservative MPs," Mr Redwood wrote.
Groupings of right-wing MPs have, in the main, been holding their tongues since the formation of the coalition. Although many Tories are hostile to the notion of sharing power with the Liberal Democrats, they also acknowledge the move has widespread support in the country.
Profile: Graham Brady - From shadow minister to thorn in the side
Just before Tony Blair's landslide election victory in 1997, a Conservative spokeswoman was asked to pick out the party's young stars.
She named two men in their early thirties who had been chosen to defend Tory seats against the New Labour tide: Graham Brady and David Cameron.
On the big day they fared rather differently, with Mr Brady clinging on to the Cheshire constituency of Altrincham and Sale West, while Mr Cameron was convincingly beaten in Stafford. It took the future Tory leader another four years to get to the Commons.
Mr Brady now has the role, following his election last night, of representing the feelings of backbench Conservative MPs to their Prime Minister.
Relations between the two men have been cool since Mr Brady resigned from the party's front bench three years ago in protest at Mr Cameron's policy on grammar schools.
It was a natural cause for Mr Brady, now 43, to defend – he joined the party as a 16-year-old to defend the status of Altrincham Grammar School, where he was a pupil and later deputy head boy.
After reading law at Durham University and spending eight years in PR, he became the youngest Tory MP after he was selected for his home town seat in 1997.
The Eurosceptic right-winger, who bears a passing resemblance to Prince Andrew, was rapidly promoted to the Tory front bench and had a spell as parliamentary private secretary to Michael Howard when he was party leader. When Mr Brady quit as Mr Cameron's shadow Europe minister after the Tories dropped their support for selective education, he said that in comprehensive education, selection by ability had been replaced with selection by class and the ability to afford a home in a well-heeled catchment area.
"Faced with a choice between a front bench position that I have loved and doing what I believe to be right for my constituents and for the many hundreds of thousands of families who are ill-served by state education in this country, there is in conscience only one option open to me," he said.
Mr Brady began his campaign for the 1922 chairmanship almost as soon as the general election's uncertain result was declared.
His successful pitch was to portray himself as the keeper of the Tory backbenchers' conscience in the uncertain times of coalition government. He won their support after pledging to constantly remind Mr Cameron not to take his MPs for granted.
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