Now the Tories can't balance the books in George Osborne's back yard

Chancellor's local Conservative Club calls crisis meeting over threats to shut it down

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Indy Politics

It does not get much truer or bluer than Knutsford, home to the Parliamentary constituency headquarters of the Chancellor George Osborne.

With the brief exception of anti-sleaze BBC war correspondent Martin Bell and a single-term Liberal 90 years earlier, this well-heeled Cheshire seat has been returning Tory MPs through various boundary changes with metronomic regularity since the Marquess of Salisbury became Prime Minister.

It is a substantial record of political domination attested to by the premises housing Mr Osborne's constituency office – an imposing red brick fortress of a building complete with royal blue door on the junction of Northwich and Manchester Roads.

But according to local reports, the Knutsford Conservative Club, which shares premises with the Chancellor's local staff, is facing a problem all too familiar to Mr Osborne – it is in the midst of a cash crisis.

The Manchester Evening News reports that unless the club comes up with sufficient funds by Christmas, it could be forced to close and an emergency meeting has been called for next month. Yesterday, a woman who answered the phone at the club declined to comment on the situation.

The Chancellor's agent, Hayley Wells-Bradshaw, said she knew nothing of the club's financial position. She said the constituency office was a separate entity only linked by sharing a roof and car park with the social club. "We are happy neighbours who co-exist in a building. That is the extent of it," she said.

Ms Wells-Bradshaw said the constituency party had recently signed a new 21-year lease on its offices.

"We have been here for 100 years. This office has always been the MP's office for Tatton and before that Knutsford going back to the 1800s and there are no plans for that to change."

The troubles in Mr Osborne's backyard come in the wake of a recent poll which showed 48 per cent of voters wanted him moved from Number 11 at the next reshuffle while 44 per cent of Tory supporters thought he was doing a bad job with the economy.

But the Knutsford Conservative Club is not alone in its difficulties. Philip Smith, secretary of the Association of Conservative Clubs (ACC) of which Knutsford is a member, told its AGM they should take advantage of sale and lease back property swaps to keep afloat. The arrangements had helped rescue a club in Stockport and a further 11 clubs had either sealed a deal or were in negotiations, he said.

Both the Prime Minister and the Association's national president, Theresa May, recently heaped praise on the work done by the clubs which have struggled amid declining support for political parties and the general travails of the licensed trade.

In a letter to Mr Smith in June, David Cameron said: "Without your committed members and the ACC's generous fundraising we could not even think about mounting campaigns and fighting elections so we have an enormous amount to thank you all for."

Recent research showed that national Conservative membership had slumped to between 130,000 and 170,000 – down from 300,000 when Mr Cameron succeeded Michael Howard. There are fears within the party it could soon fall below 100,000. Some of the biggest falls have been in the constituencies of government ministers.

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