Governments never cease to amaze me. The seven administrations I
worked for were a continuing source of wonderment and at times John
Major’s lot fair took my breath away. But after 11 short months Tony
Blair’s is taking the biscuit. Its treatment of Blackpool runs off with
the entire barrel.
I should confess that, as a Yorkshireman, I have a soft spot for
Lancastrian Blackpool. Brought up in one of Yorkshire’s border cotton
towns, we looked west rather than east and I spent far more holidays in
Blackpool than in Scarborough. Blackpool during the war was an exciting
place with its endless roar of an infinite variety of planes overhead
and an endless parade of airmen of all the allies on the prom.
It is of course, thoroughly working class. It is ideal for children.
(I regard the systematic attempt to portray its marvellous sands as
polluted as a load of Ratner). It is the sort of place where a Prime
Minister could with impunity eat fish and chips out of a newspaper on a
corner of the street before repairing to the nearest hostelry to wash
them down with Black Velvet (champagne and Guinness). Not to put too
fine a point on it, it is vulgar to the sensitive Islington souls now
Yet never in a month of Sundays did I expect Labour - and still less New
Labour with its obsession with presentation - to ditch it as a
conference centre after this year. It makes you wonder what kind of PR
persons inhabit Westminster these days. What does it say about the
Government’s approach to life?
Officially Labour says it is abandoning Labour-controlled Blackpool for
at least three years because, after Bournemouth next year, Brighton’s
Labour council has offered its conference centre free, whereas Blackpool
quoted pounds 52,562 for the Winter Gardens. In other words, to hell
with roots; money talks. Unofficially, Labour is scathing about
Blackpool’s ’shabby’ and inadequate facilities and inadequate hotels,
though the last time I saw the Brighton conference centre I was appalled
by its soulless tattiness.
It may, however, stage the associated money-spinning exhibition more
Even more unofficially, Labour’s elite are relieved they don’t have to
travel north. Brighton, the homosexual capital of the south, I’m told,
is no doubt more in tune with the ’Cool Britannia’ image which Labour is
In short, Labour is horribly off message about its reasons for deserting
Blackpool. From this little episode it is, however, clear that it is no
longer a party at ease with its ain folk in their heartland. It has
become the capitalists’ party with southern bourgeois tastes. This
presents Tory leader William Hague with a wonderful opportunity to build
the new people’s party out of the ashes of self-indulgent privilege.