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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Conservatives depart historic HQ
Tory party workers outside Smith Square
Conservative Central Office staff wave farewell to Smith Square

The Conservative Party is moving into new headquarters - above a Starbucks coffee shop - in what is being seen as a decisive break with the past.

The party has been based at Conservative Central Office in Smith Square, Westminster, since the 1950s but says it wants more modern offices.

It will now take up home in three floors of an office block in nearby Victoria Street.

The offices are said to include a "war room" ready for the general election.

Starbucks
Will shadow cabinet meetings resemble a scene from Frasier, with policy decided over mocha and latte (with extra froth and neurosis)?
Nick Assinder

On Wednesday electricians and telephone engineers were hurrying to get the premises ready for the 168 Tory party workers.

One Tory official spoke of chaotic scenes as she struggled to find papers from the array of boxes that contained her old desk. But a party spokesman said: "Everything here is always calm and purposeful."

He said there was a feeling of nostalgia for those staff who had worked in Smith Square for many years but that most staff had only worked there a short time.

Smith Square has been the backdrop for many election triumphs - most notably Margaret Thatcher's three victories.

But amid two landslide general election defeats, more recently it has been associated with reports of party infighting.

And the Conservatives hope the change of scene will also mark a change in mood.

Posing for a family photo of party workers outside the old headquarters on Thursday, party co-chairman Maurice Saatchi joked: "Hands up who thinks we're going to win the general election."

His fellow co-chairman Liam Fox stuck his hand up along with a few other laughing party workers.

Redevelopment

The party is keeping the lease on Central Office , which it hopes will be a good investment.

It will now be redeveloped into flats or offices, most likely.

When the move was first announced Dr Fox said: "The new building will provide the Conservative Party with modern, purpose-built accommodation and a superb working environment for staff to campaign and win forthcoming elections at a local, national and European levels."

Labour famously moved from Walworth Road to Millbank Tower ahead of its 1997 election triumph, although it has now moved to Old Queen Street.




SEE ALSO:
Better latte than never for Tories?
11 Feb 04  |  Politics
Tories set date for changing HQ
21 Apr 04  |  Politics
Conservatives to sell London HQ
11 Nov 03  |  Politics


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