Cllr Robert Alden is Leader of the Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council.
The race may have just begun, but surely CCHQ can already call it off. There is only one sensible place to relocate head office and that is Birmingham in the West Midlands. Sitting in the heart of the nation, its motorway network gives unprecedented access across the whole country whether you wish to go north, south, east, or west.
The party is after ‘good train links’. With three stations in the city centre – Birmingham New Street, Moor Street and Snow Hill, it’s possible to reach the majority of the country in three hours or less by train from Birmingham. That is before you even take account of the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street due to open this decade. Currently, it takes one hour 26 minutes to London, one hour 57 minutes to Leeds, two hours 31 minutes to Durham, one hour 20 minutes to Bristol and just 46 minutes to Stoke-on-Trent – to give just a few examples.
The party has also stated they want to be close to Universities with good maths and physics departments. Again, Birmingham and the West Midlands delivers on this front. The city itself has four Universities, while close by are Wolverhampton, Coventry, and Warwick Universities. For maths, Warwick University (based on the edge of Coventry) is the seventh-best in the country, while the University of Birmingham is ranked 14th. For physics, the University of Birmingham is ranked fifth and Warwick University is ninth. Overall, Warwick is ranked the joint 11th best university in the country and the University of Birmingham is 13th.
The party is also keen to ensure the location is politically sensible. Again, the region scores highly on this front. At a parliamentary level, the West Midlands Met area is full of marginal seats, where some great local candidates made key gains at the last election.
There were two gains in Wolverhampton, two in West Bromwich, one in Dudley, and one in Birmingham. While the wider West Midlands is also home to key marginals such as the seats in Stoke-on-Trent. On top of this, there are also key seats which were lost by small margins which can be won next time.
At a regional level, Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, won the first mayoral contest in 2017 and is up for re-election this year. With a majority of under one per cent, it couldn’t be more marginal.
At a local level, Dudley and Walsall are Conservative-run, but they are marginal councils whose strong results in 2019 were a forerunner for the General Election later in the year.
Labour-run Birmingham is one of the few large cities with a large Conservative presence on the council, and one which Labour only kept control of by under 4,500 votes at the last all-out elections in 2018. The next elections in 2022 will be a key battleground.
Indeed, of the seven councils in the West Midlands Met area, the Conservatives have run six of them in the last decade, and the other – Sandwell – now has only one Labour MP left following the recent General Election.
Politically, national elections are won and lost in the Midlands, and the West Midlands is full of battleground parliamentary seats and local councils. It makes a lot of sense for the party to be based here.
Add to this the fact that good quality office space is far cheaper in Birmingham than London, and the quality of life is higher, it’s no surprise the city is the number one destination for people leaving London.
With quality housing available at a fraction of London’s prices, great parks, schools, shops and nightlife, plus some of the best restaurants in the country, the region has a lot to offer staff as well as the party.
The historians amongst you will know the modern party is widely considered to have been created with the declaration of the Tamworth manifesto in 1834 by Sir Robert Peel, just a few miles from Birmingham. Moving CCHQ out of London is a bold move which shows we will deliver for the whole country. Birmingham has already shown it can host wonderful party conferences. Surely now the time has come to bring our party home to Birmingham as well.