What Birmingham means to today’s Conservatives


BIRMINGHAM was an obvious place for the Tories to hold their conference. The mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, is a Conservative. Central Birmingham is a far better place for conferences than Manchester (where the Tories had their conference last year) or Liverpool (where Labour had their conference last week). There are dozens of excellent restaurants and bars within walking distance.

But Birmingham also comes with a problem: it’s a reminder of the disappointed hopes of the last election. Nick Timothy, formerly Theresa May’s co-chief of staff (along with Fiona Hill) and chief policy adviser, is a Birmingham boy who thought that the answer to his party’s pursuit of a post-Brexit identity lay in his home town. David Cameron had concocted “Notting Hill Conservatism” that was supposed to appeal to urban liberals who liked economic liberalism but worried that traditional conservatives were “nasty”. Mr Timothy’s response was “Erdington conservatism” (named after the district in Birmingham where he grew up) which was supposed to appeal to regular working-class and middle-class people who combined a belief in traditional values with worries about their economic future. Erdington conservatism broke with liberal conservatism in being willing to sanction all sorts of policies to “take back control”: Mr Timothy’s great hero was Joe Chamberlain, a former mayor of Birmingham who championed imperial preference.

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