By Jonas Jamarik | Contributor
Amanda Millings has said that this move is part of the Conservative Party’s plan to focus its attention on the region. Some commentators see this as a logical way for the party to capitalize on its gains in Northern Labour constituencies in the 2019 general election. It is also understood that this move is meant to be partially symbolic, evidenced by the party’s statement that they want to be “at the heart of the blue wall”.
Michael Gove said this move was also a part of the effort to create more civil service jobs outside of Westminster, although the party does not yet know what the new HQ’s staffing capacity will be.
It is yet unknown whether this new HQ will be used for any special events or activities, or whether it will be used for the same fundraising and campaign planning activities that take place in the party’s current HQ located in London’s Westminster.
In January 2020, the Financial Times reported on the Conservative Party’s plans to open a new HQ outside of London. The Conservative Party’s website asked its readers for suggestions as to where this new HQ could be located. The Party wanted, “somewhere reasonably close to a university with good maths/physics departments, good train links, well placed in political terms” and consistent with its declared ambitions of getting closer to Northern voters. The party disclosed its plans to reduce the office space at the current London HQ stating that “There will be a small office in London but maybe up by King’s Cross.” This, combined with the fact that the Leeds train station is the UK’s third busiest, may prove that the party’s move to Yorkshire is more practical than symbolic.
However, the response to the party’s plans in the North and Leeds itself has not been entirely positive.
The announcement has caught the attention of groups such as Liverpool for Europe, whose chair Brenda Ashton said “Our city, like Leeds, voted Remain. The Tory Brexit government’s incompetent handling of the pandemic has confirmed our utmost commitment to challenging its approach to our future relationship with the EU. An office in Leeds would provide us with the opportunity to make our opinions visible and vocal. We would be as prepared to make the 90-minute journey to Leeds as the two-and-a-half hour one to London. In fact, the Government would be making it much easier for us to campaign against them.”
Louise Brown, of the group North East for Europe said : “If the Conservatives do not U-turn on their Leeds decision, by the time the offices open it will probably be painfully obvious the damage Brexit is doing to key sectors in the North East – such as industry and agriculture”
The deputy leader of the Leeds City Council, James Lewis, tweeted: “
After 10 years of conservative austerity cuts has taken £2 billion out of Leeds Council’s services there’s a few empty council buildings we could sell them …. pic.twitter.com/BUJiR2Quoo
— James Lewis (@JamesLewisLab) October 3, 2020
The new HQ is likely to receive more backlash in Leeds, given the fact that only three out of the eight constituencies in the city are held by the Conservatives.
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