Michael Brown: This will lead to plotting and scheming in the dining clubs

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The Independent Online

It took Mrs Thatcher nine years to rack up serious backbench resentments which eventually boiled over into open revolt – leading to the "stalking horse" candidacy of Sir Anthony Meyer in 1989 and her downfall the following year.

It takes something for Mr Cameron to create strong resentments within nine days of becoming Prime Minister.

For the whole of my 18 years in Parliament I sat on the Government benches. Throughout that period, no minister ever attended the 1922 Committee except at our invitation or our summons. Whips would attend to report back on party morale (and the "whip on duty" would give the business for the following week and answer questions).

But it was our committee – us lowly backbenchers – our trade union and our voice. Every summer, Margaret Thatcher would be "summoned" to address us. She would sit outside with just her parliamentary private secretary, surrounded by dozens of lobby journalists as we went through a ritual of keeping her waiting until such time as our formal business was over.

Our grandee chairman, Sir Edward du Cann, would call upon the secretary to open the door and say loudly, for MPs and journalists to hear, "We're ready for you now, Prime Minister."

This symbolic act was a reminder to the Prime Minister that she was only there because of our confidence and our votes in the division lobbies. When we wanted to complain about some barking mad policy we would instruct a deputation of our 1922 executive to see ministers, or the Prime Minister, to make representations on our behalf.

Crucially, because no member of the Government could vote in our annual elections, those whom we chose to represent us were our voices – not some stooge of the leadership.

David Cameron's decision to bounce the 1922 Committee into voting to change the rules – using the 70 or so ministers to swing yesterday's ballot in his favour – ensures that the Committee is no longer the voice of MPs but is, instead, the leadership's vehicle to lecture and hector the backbenchers. It will ensure that, instead of a formal focus for grievances being channelled in an orderly fashion, as a safety valve, there will now, instead, be more plotting and scheming in dining clubs.

These will be done without whips present and end up causing David Cameron far greater trouble in the long run.

One thing is for certain: this unwise, crass and petty exercise of dictatorial power will come back to bite him – one day, fatally – on the backside.

Michael Brown was a Conservative MP from 1979 to 1997 and a whip for John Major's government

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