Coming Soon: CCHQ’s Red Wall Ribbon-Cutting

The Tories look set to imminently boost their red wall presence – and given recent polling, not a moment too soon. A party source tells Guido that their long-awaited Leeds campaign headquarters – first announced by Amanda Milling way back in September 2020 – is set to open in mere weeks.

Back in 2020, the then-CCHQ chair announced the plans, saying it demonstrated a show of “commitment to the blue wall seats… This new headquarters will provide the Party with a base at the heart of the blue wall.” A year and a half on, and it sounds like the party’s already underway trying to shore up support. While its formal opening will be in a few weeks staff are already at work following a prolonged recruitment drive and the project will get up to full steam when work-from-home guidance is lifted. Another source suggested given recent events the party will be keen for the moment to be noticed by the media. Guido looks forward to Dowden’s forthcoming ribbon-cutting…

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Tories Explain Away Batley & Spen Loss

This morning, despite losing 7.5% of the vote share, Labour’s Leadbeater narrowly clung to the Batley & Spen seat with a majority of just 323. The vote share swung towards the Tories by 2.9%, which wasn’t enough to turn the tide…

Batley & Spen has been a Labour seat since 1997, and it’s significant that Tory candidate Ryan Stephenson even got a look in. However, Conservative MPs had been quietly confident, claiming for the last week that Ryan was a shoo in. Government ministers and members of the commentariat have been quick to speculate why Ryan Stephenson failed to snatch the seat. Guido has collated the excuses. Amanda Milling, government minister on this morning’s media round, was quick defend the loss. Arguing with LBC’s Nick Ferrari, Milling claimed “it was disappointing but actually we didn’t lose, we just didn’t win”. No, the Tories lost the election.

Speaking to Times Radio, the Milling admitted that Matt Hancock’s affair “came up on the doorstep”. Contrary to Boris’s claim at PMQs that this was a “bubble issue”, according to YouGov 97% of the public had registered the story and it seems to have had some cut through…
Others suggest the Tories became complacent following the shock win in Hartlepool and the phone poll last week that suggested the Conservatives had a 6 point lead over Labour in Batley & Spen. There has certainly been overconfidence in some Tory circles. Some speculate Galloway’s dirty campaign pushed sympathetic Conservative voters into the arms of Leadbeater. Videos of Leadbeater being harassed by a mob of angry men sparked outrage and sympathy. Guido reckons the result would have been different if the Green Party had fielded a candidate…
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Kay Burley on Hancock: “I was Sanctioned, I was Off Air for Six Months – I Don’t Make Policy!”

An incredibly testy interview on Sky this morning as Kay Burley challenged Tory Chairman Amanda Milling on whether Matt Hancock will face any proper repercussions for breaking the law during his affair. Milling cleverly pointed out “people have broken the rules, Kay – as you well know”, at which point Burley snapped:

“As you know – you made the point twice – I was sanctioned, I was off air for six months; I don’t make policy – you do, and he certainly did at the time”

If only Milling had pointed out Burley remained on full pay and Sky were seemingly more lenient than they would have been to other staff had they been found to have broken the rules…

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EXCLUSIVE: Amanda Milling Accuses LibDems of “Putting Lives at Risk” by Breaking Pandemic Campaigning Truce

Tory Chairman Amanda Milling has today written to Ed Davey accusing him of putting LibDem activists at risk by ignoring the national campaigning ban during the current lockdown. As Guido previously reported, while both the Tories and Labour have put down their leaflets thanks to the ban on non-essential outdoor activity, the LibDems continued until constitution minister Chloe Smith informed all parties campaigning was against the current rules. At that point, it appeared they begrudgingly ceased…

A recent update to the LibDem campaigning guidance by their CEO Mike Dixon, however, now tells activists to ignore this guidance and continue with political campaigning. In response, Milling has written to Sir Ed saying:

“It is disappointing that the Liberal Democrats are putting lives at risk in an attempt to win votes by breaking the rules.

In the interests of protecting people across the country will you now take responsibility and immediately halt all of your doorstep campaigning activity?

It is on all of us to work together to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives by staying at home during this national lockdown.”

In recent weeks the LibDems have accused the Tories of Trumpian tactics to get ahead in the May election. Guido can’t see how this latest move from Sir Ed can be seen as anything other than blatant cheating during a health crisis…

Read the letter in full:

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Milling Faces MP Backlash Over Non-Plastic ‘Membership Certificates’

Tory Party Chairman Amanda Milling has caused a stir amongst the party membership this morning by discontinuing the multi-purpose plastic membership cards and replacing them with paper ‘membership certificates’, in order to save the environment or something. For some reason she chose to launch the controversial policy change in front of a map of the disastrous 2017 election results…

The move did not go down well with Tory MPs. Michael Fabricant complained the certificates will not fit in his trinket box, while Jane Stevenson offered a novel solution. Making the cards out of… card.

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