One of the most important but understated elections in Westminster will take place next week, and could mark the beginning of the end for Boris Johnson’s premiership.
With positions on the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, which sets rules for the parliamentary party, up for grabs, this is how the contest works and how it could influence whether the prime minister will face another no-confidence vote.
There are six officers: the chair, Graham Brady; vice-chairs William Wragg and Nusrat Ghani; the treasurer, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown; and secretaries Bob Blackman and Gary Sambrook.
They hold the most senior positions and are supported by a further 12 members of the executive, only 10 of whom are currently in post due to two people having stepped down to become ministerial aides, as only backbenchers can serve on the committee.
The ballot will be held on 13 July. Candidates will need to be nominated by two colleagues.
When the election is held, it will take place over a very short period of time – as little as two hours.
Those eligible to vote are all Conservative backbenchers and may include those whose jobs rely on them supporting the government – party vice-chairs and private parliamentary secretaries – but not those who sit on the frontbench or speak from the dispatch box.
The ballot paper will feature the list of all candidates and MPs will vote by placing an “X” in the box next to their name.
It is a first-past-the-post voting system, meaning the candidate with the highest vote for each officer position will be elected, along with the 12 who get the highest number of votes for joining the executive.
The result will be announced on the same day as the election.
Brady faced a challenger last time, but government sources suggested it was extremely unlikely that No 10 would try to put up a candidate against him again.
Other positions were not contested at the last vote. But this time 20 candidates could put themselves forward in a sign of how significant the body’s role will be in shaping Johnson’s political future.
Sources on the committee said they thought everyone already on it would stand again, partly given that it is the group’s centenary next year and the current committee has been involved in helping to plan many of the events for it.
The ballot is being seen by many as a proxy vote on whether Johnson should face another no-confidence vote. Having won the last one, but with 41% of colleagues voting against him, the prime minister is now immune under party rules from facing a similar challenge for 12 months.
However, the 1922 Committee could change the rules to dramatically reduce that period. Some candidates are standing on a specific platform of doing so, while others will openly oppose the move.
In 2019, the committee was said to have voted on whether to allow another no-confidence vote to take place against Theresa May after she saw off such a challenge.
This time if the committee tries to change the rules there will probably be outcry from MPs loyal to Johnson, who would argue that the entire parliamentary party should be consulted, not just backbenchers.