Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Blackpool Reflections

Right, so this is a little later than some bloggers, but some of us had a pile of proper work waiting for us when we got back.

Incidentally, I couldn’t help noticing how the weather seemed to clear and brighten up as we headed south (well, OK, even as we crossed into Cheshire).

I wouldn’t say I was disappointed not to be returning to Blackpool. It does look tired, though credit must be given to the efforts to refurbish the seafront with the new sea wall and the South Beach is looking good. Even so, old party hands tell me that the Winter Gardens appear not to have been touched in the 30 years since they first attended conference. As for the conference hotel, the Imperial, whilst clearly one of the top hotels in Blackpool, doesn’t bear close inspection beyond the ground floor areas. The Hilton would surely be the better choice of main conference hotel (as it was for Labour visits).

The Arena at Blackpool Winter Gardens Conservative Conference 2007Yet at the same time it does seem a shame to be moving away from seaside conferences. Not just because of the tradition, but from looking through the hotel choices for Birmingham next year, with the suggested hotels within walking distance of the ICC starting from £90 for a single room on a weekday, the more business-like environment of a city centre conference will have an effect on many members’ pockets – at least those who have to pay for their own accommodation.

I don’t suppose fellow members in the Midlands or further north will have much truck with the complaints from those of us Richard Barnes-ians, about both the next few years’ conferences being up north not in the South, and I know that the Midlands is where we are set to make significant progress as a party.

Travelling from Kent, it doesn’t make much difference to me whether I go to Blackpool or Manchester for the next “northern” conference year, but talking to a reporter from a local radio station the other night, there are mixed feelings about Blackpool no longer seeing any major political conferences any more. In the same year that they lost out ont he casino, the prospect of no more party conferences was seen as a double blow, though the effect of the political gatherings on the local economy is actually fairly limited. The hotels and cab firms do well in the few days, but some people resent the disruption caused by the security arrangements. The boost to local shops and restaurants is very limited, with so much time being spent in the conference events and venues with copious quantities of free food and drink. However, there is apparently some perceived value in Blackpool receiving national exposure on TV: the half term week shortly following conference does see a big increase in day tourism centred on the illuminations.

So farewell then Blackpool. Who knows, maybe in 2013? Perhaps you’ll let us know when the Imperial gets some air conditioning installed?


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