Tories wake up to the regions

CONSERVATIVE Central Office has set its sights on the non-London based media as part of a strategy designed to sweep away 164 assorted Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist MPs from seats the Tories need to win to regain power.

CONSERVATIVE Central Office has set its sights on the non-London based media as part of a strategy designed to sweep away 164 assorted Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist MPs from seats the Tories need to win to regain power.

The party has established a Target Seats Unit with a network of regional call centres and will be appointing regional press officers to strengthen the focus on local and regional news media and raise the profile of Conservative candidates.

Why they have never done it before is a mystery. The Labour Party has regional press offices and the Tories have never quite worked out the need to sweet talk the vast majority of the media which, unlike myself, does not have access to the Parliamentary lobby.

A Conservative Campaigning Board, chaired by Lord Moynihan, will advise the professional staff of the Target Seats Unit and be responsible for ensuring that each of the Party's 164 target seats has the resources, professional support and technology to run a first-class campaign.


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The Target Seats Unit will make use of some of the party's most experienced campaigners. The Chief Executive will be Gavin Barwell while Gareth Fox - formerly the party's top official in East Anglia -will manage the recently expanded network of 36 field-based staff.

A resource centre for constituency campaigning will be based in the West Midlands, providing advice on the latest campaigning techniques, information on opponents and high-quality literature to support local campaigns

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Conservative Party co-Chairman Liam Fox said: "These developments will ensure that the Party is ready to take the fight to Labour when the next election comes. We will be increasing the pressure at every level."

In East Anglia, it means a concerted effort will be made in Labour marginals Braintree, Harwich, Peterborough, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich and Norwich North, and Liberal Democrat held Colchester and Norfolk North. Of course, the Tories did that in 2001 - and lost the lot.

WITH elections looming to the European Parliament, Tory MEPs are signing off in spirited fashion by challenging Romano Prodi, the head of the European Commission, over the handling of alleged financial mismanagement at Eurostat, the Luxembourg-based Statistical Office of the European Communities.

The Tories are no longer supporting a censure motion backed by the UK Independence Party because Pedro Solbes-Mira, the Commissioner with direct responsibility for Eurostat, has resigned to return to domestic politics in Spain. Backed by the 232-strong centre-right grouping in the Parliament, the Tories are now pressing for a full debate in the Parliament this week and postponement of any approval of the EU's 2002 accounts.

Geoffrey Van Orden, Tory Euro MP for the East of England, said: "We shall be expressing the strongest concern at the Commission's failure properly to allocate responsibility for the Eurostat affair."

He claimed: "No-one has done more to expose cases of EU fraud and mismanagement than Conservative MEPs who have pressed relentlessly for reform."

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