The new owner of the former Conservative Central Office has spoken of the “buzz” of buying the site of 50 years of Tory election victories, and back stabbings and plots.
The Daily Telegraph revealed today how Conservative Party has sold its famous former head office in Smith Square, Westminster, for £30.5 million.
The buyer is Irish property company Harcourt Developments, which counts Andrew Parker Bowles, former husband of Camilla, as one of its non-executive directors.
The deal was brokered by Christopher Moran, a former stock market broker who made his money in the 1980s and then in the early 1990s in property.
It is thought that the office’s new owner will turn the famous offices into flats.
Mr Parker Bowles was out of the country and unavailable for comment. The company’s owner Pat Doherty was also unavailable.
However, former RTÉ presenter Mike Murphy, who owns a stake in Harcourt, reportedly told Irish radio: “Just recently we bought the Conservative Party headquarters in London.
“There is a kind of little buzz about it. You think 'Isn’t it amusing?’. There is a little touch of irony.
“It has to be said that the Conservative Party didn’t come with it - they have left.”
The sale of the site of 50 years of Tory election victories and defeats, plottings and back stabbings will leave the party with a profit of around £15 million.
Senior Tory sources said this cash would allow the party to be debt-free for the first time in a decade.
But most recent figures from the Electoral Commission showed the Tories owed nearly £20 million in loans and had arranged a £15.6 million overdraft to buy the freehold ahead of the sale.
The Conservatives have been discreetly trying to sell 32 Smith Square since July 2004, when the party moved to more modern offices in nearby Victoria Street.
The party had packaged together the 1920s office block, together with its freehold and a freehold to flats in neighbouring Tufton Street, in a bid to find a buyer.
The deal was completed on Wednesday evening, minutes before a major party fund-raiser got under way in south-west London.
Lord Marland, the party treasurer, was said to want to complete the deal before he stood down yesterday, making way for new treasurer Michael Spencer.
Neither Lord Marland nor the party would comment last night.
The Conservatives gave The Daily Telegraph a tour of the old offices last autumn. Little had changed since the portrait of Baroness Thatcher was ceremoniously carried out in 2004.
The famous “war room” on the second floor, where the Conservative attack troops took the battle to Labour, was still decorated with campaigning stickers. “Vive Le Quid,” read one. “Keep The Pound,” said another. A third said “You can only be sure with the Conservatives”, while a fourth was clearly stuck there as a joke: “Same old Tories, same old lies”.
Lord Parkinson, chairman from 1981 to 1983 and 1997 to 1998, said Central Office was a great place to be when the party was winning elections.
He told how a distinctly shabby feel was encouraged by the then-treasurer Lord McAlpine to create a parsimonious air to encourage donors to be generous. He said: “McAlpine had a huge hole in the carpet when you went into his room.
A benefactor offered to give him a new carpet. But McAlpine said: 'Over my dead body. That hole is worth thousands’.”