AS rumours continue to circulate that the Prime Minister lies teetering on the brink of a leadership challenge, some journalists are speculating that the 1922 committee may have already received the 54 letters of no confidence required to trigger the vote which could oust Boris Johnson.

In a political move dubbed the “pork pie plot” by Johnson’s allies – named so because the meeting in which a group of Conservatives mutually agreed to submit letters was led by Alicia Kearns, a Tory MP who represents the town of Melton, home of Melton Mowbray pork pies. Kearns has denied leading any such plot.

Tory MPs present at the meeting told The Telegraph that they had discussed submitting letters of no confidence together, in a move that would push Johnson into an even more of a politically vulnerable position. If 15% of Tory MPs write to the chairman of the backbench committee – currently Graham Brady – a leadership challenge is triggered. As there are currently 360 Conservative MPs sitting in Parliament, 54 Conservative MPs would need to submit letters to the 1922 Committee to trigger an automatic leadership vote.

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There is much inconsistency surrounding the reported number of MPs who have officially submitted a letter of no confidence. This morning, it’s been reported that 11 members of the 2019 “Red Wall” elected Conservatives have handed in a letter. However, some Tory whips have reported that the number of total MPs to have submitted one is somewhere in the “twenties”.

While individual MPs are free to make it known if they have submitted a letter, the 1922 Committee keeps the actual number of MPs who have submitted one close to its chest. So far, Sir Roger Gale, a long-standing Tory backbencher, has announced that he has already written a letter and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has made it known that he will be submitting a letter today.

What is the 1922 Committee?

Officially known as the Conservative Private Member’s Committee, "The 22” is an influential backbench of Tory MPs. The group was originally a private dining group, made up of new Tory MPs elected in the 1922 General Election – where it takes its name. The group has grown to become an important ball part of the system that Conservative MPs use to express views on party leadership, and now plays an important role in the election of a leader to the party.

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The committee adjourns weekly while parliament is in session, previously to talk through views and opinions without the presence of the frontbenchers – although since 2010 frontbench Tory MPs have been made welcome to attend. In summation, the committee as a collective represents the views of the Tory Party to the party leader without the fear of being reprimanded by Cabinet members as they are not “formal” members of the party.

Who is on the Committee?

The elusive committee is normally made up of 18 members. Since prompting the resignation of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, they have been colloquially dubbed “men in suits”, an allusion to the power they hold "behind the scenes" in Parliament. Current chairman Sir Graham Brady has served as an MP for Altrincham and Sale West since 1997 and has been Chair of the 1922 Committee since 2020 – but also held the position from 2010 to 2019.

As of 2020, it has consisted of joint vice chairs, William Wragg and Nusrat Ghani, executive secretary Bob Blackman and Gary Sambrook, treasurer Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, and executive members Karl McCartney, Sir Bernard Jenkin, Jason McCartney, Nicola Richards, Sheryll Murray, Richard Holden, and Martin Vickers.