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Thu, 18 July 2024

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By Ben Guerin
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Tory MP Accuses New 1922 Chair Of Lacking "Proper Mandate"

3 min read

Conservative MP Mark Francois angrily confronted the newly elected chair of the 1922 Committee Bob Blackman in a parliamentary bar on Tuesday night, accusing Blackman of not having “a proper mandate”.

The election to choose the successor to Sir Graham Brady ended in chaos after several senior Conservative MPs were excluded from voting after showing up too late.

Conservative MPs seemingly received mixed messages about when voting would finish. Some believed it would stop at 6pm and arrived close to that time, but were told it was too late to cast a vote when they turned up.

In the end, Blackman, the MP for Harrow East, received 61 votes, while the other candidate Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown received 37.

Later that night, Francois confronted Blackman in parliament's Strangers Bar, a Thameside bar used by MPs, staffers and journalists, and told him, "people were disenfranchised, including the shadow chancellor [Jeremy Hunt] and Father of the House [Edward Leigh]."

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

He added: “I’m sick and tired of all the bloody shenanigans. You just have to read The Plot, this is completely bent."

Francois was referencing former Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries' book about the downfall of former prime minister Boris Johnson. Francois was a keen Johnson supporter and backed his bid to return to No 10 in the late-2022 Conservative party leadership contest.

“I’ve said it in front of witnesses, re-run it. In 23 years I’ve never known anything like it. Seriously I’d re-run it and do it again next week”, he said.

Francois, who was re-elected the MP for Rayleigh and Wickford at the General Election, brandished a copy of the Daily Mail and a printed out copy of an email from Blackman’s office saying the vote ended at 6pm.

Blackman as the new 1922 chair will have a key role in determining how the forthcoming Tory party leadership election will work.

In response to Francois, Blackman said "of course it's a mandate", adding that re-running the election would only be necessary if there had been “one or two votes in it” but he beat Tory veteran Clifton Brown by 61 votes to 37.

A Tory MP present at the hustings told PoliticsHome: “He [Francois] is out of control. We’ve just had the shellacking of a lifetime, a significant part of which has been due to division and psychodrama as opposed to focussing on our constituents.

"We need to wind our necks in.”

Francois also questioned why Brady, who stood down at the last election after serving as chair of the 1922 Committee for 14 years, was present at the hustings. 

He said that if had been a general election and a polling card stated the polls closed at 10pm but people were turned away at 9:30, “there would be riots”. 

“It was a mandate in an irregular election… Day one, after six weeks. We’ve learned nothing," he said.

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