IT’S a secretive body of Tory backbenchers which hit the headlines as MPs plotted the downfall of Boris Johnson.

Now a new book is promising an insider’s look at what goes on at the 1922 Committee – including correcting misconceptions over its origins.

Author Philip Norton, professor of government at the University of Hull – who regularly attends the ­committee as peer Lord Norton of Louth – said it was surprising how ­little was known about the ­“powerful” body which has become known for the “slaying” of prime ministers in recent years.

In the space of three years, between 2019 to 2022, three leaders – Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – resigned following the submission of letters calling for a vote of no ­confidence from Conservative MPs to 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady.

Norton (below) said Brady probably now had greater name recognition than many ministers.

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“He became famous for not saying anything – being asked how many ­letters have you had [and saying I will] not tell you or an enigmatic smile and not saying anything,” he said.

“It really got a very high profile and that has made the ’22 far more ­significant than previously.”

He added: “I make the point ­Graham Brady has seen off more Prime Ministers than the electors have.”

One of the myths which is explored in The 1922 Committee: Power ­Behind The Scenes, published by Manchester University Press next month, is that it used to be down to “men in grey suits” from the ­executive committee to to tell Tory politicians when their time in power was up.

Norton said: “One of the myths is that, before MPs formally got the power to elect a leader, Conservative leaders were removed because they got a visit from the men in grey suits – in other words, the grandees, the ­executives from the 1922 Committee.”

But he added: “Since 1965, when the power to elect was formally ­introduced and then especially since 1975, when it had the power to vote the leader out of office, it has really become a very important political force.”

Norton said another common misconception was the committee was founded in 1922 – when it is actually celebrating its centenary this year.

The book outlines how it was ­originally set up in 1923 as a form of “self-help” group for MPs to help find their way around the House of ­Commons in the absence of any ­formal induction process.

Norton, who has spent around 25 years attending the committee as a member of the House of Lords, said it now fulfils a range of tasks, ­including the executive committee acting as an “agony aunt” for upset or disgruntled MPs.

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He said moments of high drama were “the exception and not the rule”.

But he added: “You get the ­exceptional meetings where the fate of the leader may be in doubt.

“Theresa May came to speak to the 1922 Committee after the 2017 ­General Election when the party had not been returned with a large ­majority, so to some extent she was fighting for her political life.

“It was a packed meeting, she ­addressed it and that was high drama.

“Much earlier, Iain Duncan Smith, of course, was subject to a vote of no confidence, so he had to address the ’22, when he was fighting to hold onto the leadership.

“In this case, he lost – he made a very good speech, but at the end of it, I turned to a very senior MP and said what do you think of that – and he simply said ‘too late’.”

Norton added: “So there are those moments of really high drama, the committee room is completely packed, absolutely crowded.

“I think I made the point in the book that meetings like that would give the health and safety inspector apoplexy as it is just standing room only, jam-packed.

“At other times, you get a handful of members [attending].”

Norton described the 1922 ­Committee as “sporadically ­powerful” – saying while it did ­always affect ministers, it had the ability to do so.

“That is why ministers have got to be careful, they have got to be on their toes – as a policy they introduce or a speech they give can suddenly blow up and become controversial, they are summoned to the ’22 and they might be fighting for their ­[political] lives,” he added.

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“The Conservative Party have been in government more often than any other party in British politics, and so the body of Conservative MPs coming together is very important – yet what is surprising is how little is known about it.

“You think this is a really ­important body – why has no one studied it?”