The Sunday Times reported in November that Tory MPs defending Red Wall seats in the North and Midlands were being left with dwindling war chests to fight the next general election as donations were being funnelled into southern seats where MPs enjoy larger majorities.
There is also evidence that under Sunak the party is only prepared to tool up in its southern heartlands. According to the W4MP recruitment website, Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) is hiring campaign staff in Devon and Cornwall ahead of the local elections, having previously advertised for roles in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Prior to Sunak, the party had its sights firmly fixed on the Red Wall, recruiting for campaigners in Stoke, Bury and Peterborough.
Has someone senior in CCHQ turned off the taps since Liz Truss sent the party’s poll ratings into a tailspin? While some Tory backbenchers looking ahead nervously to the next election fear they will be outgunned by Labour’s ground campaign, others insist their team has been well-staffed for some time.
But following explosive rows over the latest round of levelling-up funds favouring southern areas – London received more cash than Yorkshire and North East put together – most MPs would privately admit it’s not a good look for the Tories.
[See also: Jeremy Hunt says nothing]