Conservative Party to open new campaign headquarters in Leeds in bid to cement 'blue wall'
The Conservative Party is set to open a new headquarters in Leeds, it has been revealed, with the aim of being “at the heart of the blue wall”.
Party co-chairman Amanda Milling will unveil the plans at the Conservative Party Conference on Saturday, with the new Yorkshire base set to open next year.
Ms Milling, who worked in Leeds before she became an MP, will open the conference and is expected to say: “We are determined to show our commitment to the blue wall seats.
“That’s why I am thrilled to announce that CCHQ will be opening a headquarters in Leeds.
“This new headquarters will provide the party with a base at the heart of the blue wall. Because we’re in it for the long haul.
“We’re determined to make the blue wall part of the fabric of our Party and our country. The best way we can deliver for people there is to be there.”
The Tories won more than 40 seats in the Midlands and the North at the December General Election as Labour’s so-called ‘red wall’ of constituencies crumbled. In a bid to cement these gains, plans were put in place to open up a new campaign headquarters outside London.
Campaign headquarters are used for targeting voters and seats, drawing up shortlists for elections, and finalising candidates, and it handles all campaigning for the party.
Readers of the website ConservativeHome were asked for their suggestions on the location of the headquarters, either in the Midlands or North of England, which had good train links and was "well placed in political terms".
The current central London location has previously been targeted by protesters, including by students in 2010 and in 2014.
Ms Milling added: “Last year saw the Conservative Party win seats we’ve never held before and we owe it to the millions of people who put their faith in us with their votes to get back to the business of delivering for them after years of arguing about Brexit.
“The best way we can do that in the Midlands and the North is to open a new headquarters in the heart of the blue wall.
“Leeds is a key part of our plan to build back better for the people of this country and building a campaign presence there reinforces our commitment to that task.”
It has not yet been decided where the headquarters will be, but the party will join big names such as Channel 4 in moving to the city.
A spokesman said they were still working out how many staff would be moving to the Leeds base, but that they would come from across the country and discussions would take place in coming months.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously indicated he would like to see the House of Commons, and the House of Lords, move out of London and to York while refurbishment took place.
And both Labour and the Conservatives have also floated the idea of moving more civil servants out of the capital, with former shadow chancellor John McDonnell pledging during the election he would move the Treasury outside of London.
But speaking to The Yorkshire Post the former head of the civil service, Lord Bob Kerslake, said: “It can't just be what's commonly called moving chore rather than core out, that's to say moving administrative functions is good, for example passports moved to Sheffield, but you have to be serious about moving out potentially whole departments and the policy function that goes with them.”
Lord Kerslake said the coronavirus pandemic had shown that staff did not need to be in Whitehall to work effectively, and he added: “And we do need to change the way Government works.”
But he said when departments creating policy had been moved to Sheffield such as the Manpower Services Commission in the 1970s or more recently the Department for Education, “a lot of civil servants just spent their time on the trains going back down to London for the meetings”.
And he warned not to confuse moving offices - whether civil servants or political parties - with achieving the levelling up of the North.
“It should not be confused with the scale of the challenge of levelling up,” he said. “It's a contribution, a modest but useful contribution to the agenda, but it's not the agenda.
“And I get quite worried that people say the levelling up agenda is about moving the offices and frankly, it's not.”