Last week Conservative Home led with the exclusive that No 10 are thinking of disbanding Conservative Central Office, currently based at Richmond House in Westminster, to a city outside of London.
It has sparked a debate within the ranks of the Conservative party as to where the location should be.
Most recently, the Conservative online forum has published an article from Cllr Anthony Mullen pushing the case for Newcastle, and Cllr Robert Alden, Conservative Group leader on Birmingham City Council, advocating that the race should be called off because Birmingham has already won.
But, if CCHQ were to pack up and head north to Birmingham, what would the benefits be - if any - to the city and wider region?
Firstly, CCHQ would not be the only big brand organisation to have decided that Birmingham is the right place to call home. It would join HSBC at its new retail HQ at the fantastic Arena Central development and Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PWC), which only last month moved in to new offices at the Paradise development.
‘Professional Occupations’ accounted for 21.2% of the workforce in 2018, up from 19.2% in 2017. The staff at CCHQ would be joining a growing professional services workforce, who’s increasing numbers are contributing to the city’s economic growth, with high-wages and disposable income, helping stimulate the city’s retail, leisure an eatery scene. Transferring a workforce that is highly-skilled which could help increase productivity rates would be welcome for that reason alone.
However, the largest impact of such a move would be one of messaging.
It would signal that the Government is serious about its pledge to ‘level up’ the regions. Britain remains one of the most centralised countries in Europe, so moving the central office of the governing party to Birmingham would further demonstrate that power, currently centralised in Westminster, is being devolved to the regions, with the view to stimulate regional economic growth.
This would also be true if the House of Lords were to be moved from the Palace of Westminster to Birmingham, which is also reportedly set to be moved from London, with York in the lead and Birmingham coming in ‘second’. (Perhaps, a new Palace of Digbeth, should house Her Majesty’s ennobled?)
The move of CCHQ would also cement a narrative that could be sold to other potential organisations thinking of a presence in Birmingham. Recently, HSBC’s presence in the city has demonstrated that the city can be home to big brands. Moving CCHQ would boldly say: ‘Being in Birmingham is good enough for HSCB and the Conservative Party, so come and join them’. Moving CCHQ from London to Birmingham could thus be a catalyst for further businesses and organisations deciding to move to Birmingham.
However, for the greatest impact, there needs to be a greater devolution of powers from Westminster to city-regions. If the move of CCHQ to a Midland or Northern city is the start of that process, then that should be welcome, and Birmingham should be eager to house the new CCHQ.