Political plotting is harder in an open-plan office. After three decades, the Liberal Democrats are to quit the wood-panelled rabbit warren of their Cowley Street headquarters for minimalist offices in one of the most exclusive streets in Westminster.
The survivors of a wave of redundancies are to relocate to a single floor at 8-10 Great George Street, just off Parliament Square and opposite the Treasury. However, despite the party going into the red for the first time – with a credit facility of up to £1m – it is understood the move will not save money.
Instead, party managers hope that, by forcing spin-doctors to rub shoulders with policy wonks and campaign teams, communications will improve within the party. "We need to do a whole bunch of stuff to be lot more effective," said Tim Farron, the party's president. "It is about really, really improving the way we campaign." It comes after a bruising 12 months in power for the Lib Dems, coupled with a bloodbath in local elections.
Developers describe the Great George Street block as "high-quality Grade-A offices located in the heart of Westminster – stunning views over Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey".
The move from 4 Cowley Street will bring the curtain down on a tumultuous time in British politics. The SDP took the building, built in 1905, as its HQ in the early 1980s. The pokey rooms formed a backdrop to the bitter infighting surrounding the merger of the SDP and the Liberal party in 1988, Paddy Ashdown's affair revealed in 1992, and, in 2006, Charles Kennedy announcing he had a drink problem and would step aside as leader.
The new offices are next to Roux at Parliament Square, the restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jnr, where pigeon and foie gras costs £32.50. "I look forward to it becoming the unofficial canteen," said one Lib Dem staffer, optimistically.