Major CCHQ Revamp: Full Details

A major restructuring of CCHQ is underway. There was a feeling among senior Tories that they needed to improve coordination between the party’s research, press and digital operations, and make sure that going forwards they are all on the same page. CCHQ has been revamped accordingly, those three branches will now work much more closely together.

Iain Carter, who most recently worked with Lynton Crosby at CTF, has been hired as the Tories’ Political Director. Carter is a Conservative Research Department veteran and former SpAd who has fought two elections at CCHQ. Tory sources describe him as a “very effective operator“. PFL?

Guido hears Richard N Jackson will be Co-Head of Operations and Head of Regional Media, in charge of all visits and regional press. “N“, as he is known by colleagues, is one of the good guys, a former Tory Head of Press and CCHQ veteran who has been there a decade. Carter, Jackson and Carrie Symonds, who yesterday Guido revealed is the new Director of Comms, worked together in CCHQ before the 2015 election.

CCHQ has taken a kicking from Tory colleagues since the election. ConservativeHome recently accused it of “resting on laurels”, describing it as a “weaker machine than needed” and arguing “there must be a reckoning”. Tory MPs will hope this restructuring and these senior hires are that reckoning, and will turn CCHQ back into a powerhouse in time for the next election…

CCHQ Hiring Campaign Managers

You might think that after electing a “strong and stable” government, a party headquarters would be reducing the headcount. As of yesterday CCHQ put up new adverts for campaign managersSomebody clearly thinks there could there be another election in the offing…

CCHQ Diverted Resources Away from ‘Safe’ Seats Tories Lost

There is a lot about the Tory campaign that has caused huge anger among MPs. Though little provoked more fury than the decision by CCHQ to divert resources away from supposedly ‘safe’ seats that the Tories then went on to lose. Guido has heard from several defeated MPs who were continually assured by HQ that their seats were safe. The decision was taken centrally to pull resources out of these constituencies and divert them to target seats like Ealing Central. Some MPs themselves were even sent to knock up in others seats on polling day. This complacency was fatal for several MPs. They ended up losing their seats by small margins, while in Ealing Rupa Huq increased her majority from 274 to 13,807.

MPs repeatedly warned CCHQ that large numbers of Labour and Momentum activists were flooding their perceived safe seats, while their local Tory campaigners had been relocated elsewhere. They were told not to worry. Then they lost their seats. What an extraordinary clusterf**k.

CCHQ Already Preparing For Next Election

Tory HQ was caught on the hop by the snap election, initially struggling to find enough candidates to fill seats having culled their list of approved prospective MPs. They are determined not to make the same mistake in the event of another early election – Guido hears preparations have already begun. CCHQ Head of Candidates Gareth Fox emailed the old candidates list yesterday inviting them to apply be considered for the new list. This would not normally happen for several months after an election, instead the process has been accelerated and is already underway less than a week after polling day. Applications from candidates are wanted “as soon as you can”, and by no later than 10 July. CCHQ wasn’t ready when Theresa May called the June 8 election, they want to make sure they are all set to go if they have to in the autumn…

Tory and Labour Candidates All Believe May Heading For Comfortable Win

There is a complete consensus among every Tory and Labour candidate Guido has spoken to over the last week. They are not seeing on the doorstep the alleged Labour surge seen in the polls. Not a single Tory candidate Guido has spoken to has noticed a significant problem in their constituency – there is grumbling over the manifesto, dementia tax and the May campaign’s general inadequacy, but nothing to suggest there is some unprecedented groundswell of people seriously considering voting for Corbyn. Guido has spoken to Tory candidates in seats with 8,000 Labour majorities who still believe they will win. As Politico reports, everyone in CCHQ is giving off an air of calm. That is the mood Guido gauges too. Not one Tory candidate has indicated to Guido they believe there is a problem in their seat. 

Labour candidates (with the exception of Corbyn and McDonnell) agree. As the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot says, there is unanimity among Labour that they are not seeing what the polls suggest. More than one Labour veteran has told Guido that several high-profile Labour MPs are still likely to lose their seats. A senior former Labour official reckons the Tories will still win an 80+ majority. As Joan Ryan, the Labour incumbent in the Tory-Labour marginal of Enfield North says, “Realistically no one thinks Theresa May will not be Prime Minister”. Everyone on the ground on all sides does not believe the YouGov hung parliament projection, they are all expecting to see a Tory majority of 50 plus at the very least…

UPDATE: A well-timed new model from Lord Ashcroft projects a Tory majority between 40 and 78. Sounds much more like it…

CCHQ Faces Revolt in Don Valley and Walsall

Two more Tory associations are fighting with CCHQ over centrally-imposed shortlists freezing out local candidates. Up in Don Valley the locals are upset that the 2015 candidate Carl Jackson has not been included on the three man shortlist. The local Tory chairman and all the local councillors have written to CCHQ Head of Candidates Gareth Fox to express their “dismay“:

“We would like to express our absolute dismay that Carl Jackson who previously stood in Don Valley in 2015 has not been offered a place on our short list for the parliamentary seat. Carl was an excellent candidate who has since been back to Doncaster to help campaign in our target wards for the Local Election prior to the General Election being called.”

Big battle ahead of the selection meeting tonight. 

There is further trouble in Walsall South, where ConHome reports the association is so unhappy it has voted not to even hold a selection meeting to consider the two candidates proposed to them.

These are two seats worth targeting for the Tories – Caroline Flint has a majority of 8,800 in Don Valley and Valerie Vaz has a majority of just 6,000 in Walsall, both in the danger zone for Labour. Busy day for Gareth Fox…

CCHQ Rows With Associations Over Female Candidates

CCHQ is embroiled in a number of nasty spats with Tory associations after imposing female candidates on seats across Wales. The Tories do not have a single female Welsh MP, something party chairman Patrick McLoughlin and Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns are determined to change. In Bridgend, CCHQ has imposed Karen Robson on the association against its will. Robson is not from the local area (she moved to Wales after university and last ran for the Tories 20 miles away in Cardiff). This has infuriated local members, who passed a vote to reject the carpetbagger and choose a local candidate instead. One member says:

“The majority of members are up in arms as this is an outrage and tearing our Association apart in a target seat. It is hardly an example of strong and stable leadership in the national interest. This is immoral and treats all of us hard working volunteers who have been here through thick and thin with contempt.”

CCHQ has ignored them and pressed ahead with Robson as the candidate, in response some Bridgend Tory councillors are threatening to go independent…

The Tories have also imposed female candidates on associations in both Newport West and East. In Newport West, European Parliament bag-carrier Angela Jones-Evans has been imposed at the expense of the 2015 candidate and long-serving local member Nic Webb. In Newport East, CCHQ wants Natasha Asghar, the daughter of the local Tory assembly member. These associations are upset with Cairns, McLoughlin and CCHQ. Behind closed doors Cairns has insisted there has to be at least one female MP returned in Wales this election and imposing female candidates is the only way to guarantee that. As Guido’s (male) Welsh mole says: “We do need to have a female MP, but CCHQ has gone about this in an awful fashion…”

Tories Accidentally Send Conference Call Details to Labour and LibDems

Yesterday afternoon a Google Calendar invite pinged into Tory inboxes from CCHQ’s Stephen Gilbert, outlining details of their election campaign conference calls so staff can dial in and be briefed on the plan for the day. One problem. The email arrived in the inboxes of Gilbert’s old referendum contacts book, rather than his Tory HQ contacts book. Which means the private dial in details were received by top LibDems James McGrory, James Holt, Harriet Shone, Sam Barratt and Ryan Coetzee, and Labour’s Joe Carberry, Will Straw, David Chaplin, Brian Duggan and Amy Richards. Ooooops…

From: Stephen Gilbert
Sent: 21 April 2017 14:33
To: Ameet Gill; James McGrory; Ameetpal Gill; Brian Duggan; James Holt; Craig Oliver; Harriet Shone; Craig Oliver; Stuart Hand; Olivia Jensen; Charlotte Todman; Lucy Thomas; Guillaume Amigues; Iain Gill; Joe Carberry; Charlotte Vere; Will Straw; Kamala Mackinnon; Amy Richards; Tom Edmonds; David Chaplin; Sam Barratt; Ryan Coetzee
When: Occurs every day effective 20/04/2017 from 06:00 to 06:45

Morning Campaign meeting

Hi All, please note that the daily Morning Campaign meetings will now take place at 09.30 am every weekday…

HQ conference line

Dial-in: 020 XXXX XXXX

Participant pin: XXXXXX

The calendar invite was then cancelled. Loose lips (and email cock-ups) sink ships…

UPDATE: A Tory source gets in touch to clarify that the pin revealed in the email was an old Stronger In pin, so the CCHQ conference calls were not compromised.

CCHQ Caught on Hop: Not Enough Candidates to Fill Seats

The Tories were quick out of the blocks with their rules for candidate selections yesterday, though CCHQ has been caught on the hop in terms of the actual candidates. The word is the Tories still do not currently have enough names on their candidates list to fill every opposition-held seat. The shortfall came after the list was culled last summer, and the CCHQ candidates department has been painfully slow at processing new applications. As Guido revealed in February CCHQ did begin the search for candidates in Labour strongholds. Yet there remains a deficit between candidates and seats…

Guido has spoken to Tories who applied to join the candidates list last autumn and still haven’t been interviewed. As one Tory insider says of the CCHQ head of candidates: “Gareth Fox has been sleeping for six months”. This means the Tories will likely have to hold emergency PABs (Parliamentary Assessment Board meetings) to appoint new people to the list over the next week. You might end up with a no hoper seat, though this news will excite a lot of ambitious wannabes…

Will Tories Drop MOAB on Corbyn?

It has long been assumed that the Tories have a ton of dirt of Jeremy Corbyn that they were holding back for the election. That somewhere in the archives at the bottom of a filing cabinet in CCHQ sits a dossier of new revelations about Corbyn’s links to various terrorists, extremists and all round wrong ‘uns. There has even been talk that the Tories would drop a “MOAB” – Mother of All Bombs – on Corbyn with weeks to go. Guido understands the MOAB isn’t quite as big as has been hyped, and that the Tories believe most of Corbyn’s IRA / Hamas links have already been factored in. There are however two or three front page newspaper stories ready to go over the next 50 days. Not so much a MOAB to wipe Jez out, more a couple of well-timed mortars to cause damage tactically during the campaign…

Tory MPs Meeting to Discuss Yellow Peril

Tory MPs in LibDem marginals are meeting with officials from CCHQ today to discuss the yellow peril. The feeling among backbenchers is that, as things stand, the LibDems would likely unseat a handful of Tory MPs in the event of an election. Those particularly under threat are obviously Tory MPs who won their seats off LibDems in the West Country and now have small majorities, and vocal Leave MPs in heavily Remain areas who could succumb to the Zac Goldsmith / Sarah Olney effect.

Dear Colleague,

As part of our series of briefings on campaigning in seats previously held by the Liberal Democrats, I have arranged for CCHQ to provide some materials that may be of use. A CCHQ representative will be present for our discussion and I hope you can join us.

The session will now take place on Tuesday 28th March in XXX from 1300-1400.

Best wishes,

Anne Milton
Deputy Chief Whip

If Sarah Olney can make it to parliament…

UPDATE: A LibDem source responds:

“They saw what we did to Zac Goldsmith. The Tories know the only seats at risk are ones that are being targeted by the Liberal Democrats.”

Theresa Deploys Philip May

In the month running up to the Copeland by-election, veterans at Tory HQ were surprised by the almost daily presence of one unusual visitor. Philip May, the PM’s husband, turned up to phone bank for Trudy Harrison nearly every day between 6pm and 8pm. “He was there at least 90% of the days for the last few weeks,” says a source, noting that by contrast Samantha Cameron would attend phone banks once or twice per by-election, usually just as a photo opportunity. A sign of how the Tories threw the kitchen sink at Copeland? Possibly, though there is more to it than that…

Theresa May’s inner circle comprises of just four people: the PM, her chiefs of staff Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, and her husband. She trusts few outside that group. So, Tory insiders say, Theresa has deployed Philip as her political secret weapon: her personal focus group, amateur pollster and party mole. Those in the room estimate Philip spoke on the phone to more than a thousand Copeland voters and believe the PM used him to gauge opinion, rather than rely on the professional pollsters who let down her predecessor. “He was her personal focus group for voters because she trusts no one else,” says a Tory source. He phone banked assiduously in the Sleaford by-election as well.

There was of course another benefit to having Philip in CCHQ – he could report back on which Cabinet ministers and MPs were pulling their weight. Tories say the proof that Philip is being used as a serious political operative is the fact that his phone banking exploits have not been briefed out to the media, as was the norm with SamCam. An insight into how few people the PM keeps close, and how important those few are…

Tories Start Candidate Selection Process Early

The Tories have started the first stage of their candidate selection process early, Guido can reveal. CCHQ has told its parliamentary candidates list that the Team Seats programme in 44 seats will be beginning “early”. Team Seats, formerly known as City Seats, is the preliminary stage of the selection process in urban constituencies and Labour strongholds. It allows potential candidates to put their names forward and establish themselves locally before the formal selection process takes place. Candidates have been set a deadline of February 20 to apply – Tories on the list tell Guido the programme is usually launched much closer to a general election. Those who received the email yesterday were surprised to say the least – it has set a cat among the pigeons.

The email from CCHQ Head of Candidates Gareth Fox acknowledged that the party had brought forward the process:

We recognise that the early appointment of teams are essential to build trust with the Associations and for the candidates to establish themselves locally.”

Formal selection will take place “later in the parliament”. The 44 seats are in Doncaster, Rotherham, Durham, Manchester, Merseyside, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, North Tyne and South Tyne. These safe Labour seats are usually selected close to an election. A fascinating move that will help prepare the Tories either for a snap election or for an unprecedented assault on Labour seats in 2020…

Tory Candidate Seeking Injunction Over MEP Dispute

story

Guido understands Tory candidate Alex Story is currently in the High Court seeking an interim injunction against the Yorks and Humber nominating officer to prevent him from installing anyone else as Yorkshire’s MEP. Story was due to take up the vacant role as Yorkshire’s next MEP, only to have his career “ended”, he says, by a “CCHQ cock-up”. Background here. Leeds council are arguing against the injunction being granted – the Tories instead put up local councillor John Proctor for the role. More to follow as we get it…

Referendum Day CCHQ Leak

cchq

Tory HQ has flooded:

From: Conservative Campaign Headquarters
To:
Subject: Access to Lower Ground Floor

There is no access to the lower ground floor at Matthew Parker Street due to flooding. Seating arrangements will be made on the Upper floor.

Down the road the Spectator’s offices have been submerged too. The Guy Newsroom remains dry, for now…

CCHQ Freeze MPs and Associations Out of Vote Source

vote-source

Tory MPs and local associations are seething after CCHQ blocked them from using the party’s Vote Source campaign software during the referendum. Vote Source is the Tories’ purpose-built database which allows them to target individual voters, a crucial campaign tool for any election or referendum:

VoteSource and the EU Referendum

Please read carefully:

In accordance with the decision of the Party Board – Access to the Campaign Section of VoteSource will be suspended during the EU Referendum Campaign.

Access to Campaigning will only be granted for Local By-Election activity.

Please contact your member of Field Staff to arrange this access.

This means the 142 Leave MPs and overwhelmingly Brexit-backing associations cannot run selections or export voter mailing and email data. Being frozen out of their own campaigning data has not surprisingly gone down like a cup of cold sick among Eurosceptic Tories, who are the hardest hit by the party board’s decision. The party is trying every trick to nobble Outers…

UPDATE: Mark Wallace at ConHome reports that the Remain campaign appears to have had access to voter data.

CCHQ’s Battle Bus Guidance Revealed

battlebus

Where do the Tories stand on the election fraud scandal? They are bang to rights on failing to declare £38,000 of hotel bills for Tory activists, blaming an “administrative error”. The issue of transport – the fabled “battle buses” – is contested. There are three outcomes here. Are CCHQ right when they say they’ve done nothing wrong? Did they breach the rules on national and local spending? Or was there a conspiracy to hide spending from the official declarations?

Leaked emails reveal CCHQ told their local campaign teams that the cost of hotels and battle buses would be “accounted for out of central campaign spend”. It stressed transport within the seat was not included: “For legal reasons the Battlebus cannot ferry people around the seat”.

The arrangement had the “personal sponsorship” of Grant Shapps, was “signed off” by Lynton Crosby, Stephen Gilbert and Lord Feldman, and was “supported by Deborah Feldman’s Team in CCHQ“. That’s Lord Feldman’s sister.

The good news for the Tories is this shows they did see battle buses as part of the national campaign all along, and demonstrates they were taking steps to abide by spending laws. So they can argue there wasn’t a conspiracy to hide the cash. The bad news? If the cops find it should have gone down as local spend, the party chairman and his sister are implicated…

CPS Says Up to Cops to Pursue Tories

battlebus

The Tory expenses affair takes another turn, the CPS says:

“Following a constructive meeting with the police and Electoral Commission, it has been agreed that each relevant police force will consider what action to take. This may Include making an application to the court under s.176 of the Representations of the People Act 1983 to extend the time allowed to bring a prosecution.”

Looks like the curse of Mark Clarke has hit a wall despite his best efforts in briefing Michael Crick… 

CCHQ Breaks Neutrality Promise

cchq-email

click to enlarge

The battle commences, the promise that CCHQ would be neutral is broken. On day one.

Harry Cole on Shapps Resignation

Feldman next?[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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