We reported last week that a senior source in Number Ten wants CCHQ out of Matthew Parker Street altogether and to move it to the North or the Midlands. And that it wanted ideas about where this new location should be.
It added that the new venue should be “somewhere reasonably close to a university with good maths/physics departments (we should get a data team up there), good train links, well placed in political terms”.
What Downing Street seems to us to be looking for are responses and suggestions that are shaped roughly as follows.
- CCHQ should move to A because…
- …it is near B number of marginal seats…
- …C University in the area has a first-class maths department as graded by D…
- …And it has the following transport links to E.
Some of the replies approached that level of detail. See Raedwalda’s on Manchester, Toonjulz’s on Newcastle, Dargueam’s on Birmingham…and several contributors who highlighted the connection between Warwick University and Coventry.
At any rate, the votes cast in the thread, as it were, went roughly as follows. We’ve allowed for a contributor to back two places in one post (but not more).
- York – 18 votes (cast before it was reported that Downing Street wants to move to House of Lords there).
- Birmingham eleven.
- Manchester nine.
- Leeds seven.
- Newcastle seven.
- Bradford two.
- Durham five.
- Stoke five.
- Newcastle four.
- Sheffield three.
- Coventry three (with the University of Warwick referenced).
- Chester two.
- Darlington two.
- Leicester two.
- Three Birmingham spin-offs – Bromsgrove, Stourbridge and Walsall.
- Three Manchester spin-offs – Bolton, Macclesfield and Salford (three votes).
- Blackpool, Buxton, Carlisle, Chester, Crewe, Derby, Mansfield, Lincoln, Liverpool, Loughborough, Northampton, Nuneaton, Peterborough, Walsall, Worcester – one each.
Some contributors suggested venues in Scotland; or the South of England, or dismissed the whole idea as a gimmick.
They were right to ask some searching questions. Why move CCHQ in the first place? Some say that a move would make the institution less London-centric. Others, that different bits could go in different places.
But if the press office (say) were to stay in the capital, wouldn’t it make sense for the Research Department too as well? If so, one then asks what the point would be of splitting CCHQ into two.
Some readers wanted CCHQ to maintain its base in London but diversity its campaigning. But would the Conservatives really need a mass of potentially expensive new out-of-capital locations to do that?
Finally, does any part of CCHQ have to be in the capital? The Chairman’s office, presumably: he can scarcely be expected to dash to the lobbies to vote in ten minutes from north of Watford.
On this site, Robert Alden made the case for Birmingham, Anthony Mullen made one for Newcastle (from Sunderland)…and Eddie Hughes one for a town or small city such as Derby, Stoke or York.
All in all, we question whether CCHQ should really move at all. But if a big symbolic move is in order, the Midlands makes sense as a location: after all, that’s where a mass of marginal seats are now centred.
Birmingham may thus be as good a place as anywhere but, if one is to place faith in the wisdom of crowds, the case made in the threads for Coventry and Warwick University made a lot of sense.