Labour chiefs eyeing resort return

Labour North West Regional Conference at the Winter Gardens.
Labour North West Regional Conference at the Winter Gardens.
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SENIOR Labour politicians have called for the party’s national conference to come back to Blackpool.

It has been a decade since the party’s annual gathering was last held in the resort, but now two shadow cabinet members have stated their desire to return to one of Labour’s traditional Conference venues – the Winter Gardens.

Labour North West Regional Conference at the Winter Gardens.  Pictured is Ed Balls MP.

Labour North West Regional Conference at the Winter Gardens. Pictured is Ed Balls MP.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham visited the famous complex on Saturday for the party’s annual North West regional conference, which was being held there for a second successive year.

Mr Balls told The Gazette: “It’s great to be back here and my first ever Labour conference was here 20 years ago.

“We’ve seen in the last few years some of the big city centres trying to compete for that conference business but I still think there’s something special about coming to Blackpool.”

Mr Burnham, who saw The Stone Roses play their famous concert in the Empress Ballroom in 1989, said the venue’s heritage should not be forgotten by the major parties.

He said: “I have many happy memories of this place both politically and of that night in particular.

“If you think about the landmark moments in our country’s history, they’ve been made here in venues like this and we need to be grateful for that heritage and bring it into the future.

“It looks very improved and it would be great to see us back here.”

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Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden delivered the conference’s opening speech and gave his backing for the party machine to return to the resort in future years, stating he’d even welcome rival parties to the venue if it meant gaining greater national exposure for Blackpool.

He said: “I would like a Tory conference to come and see the improvements we’ve made here but I’d also welcome people whether they’re political or not.

“All the parties have taken a step back from seaside conferences in recent years and conference demands have changed with new technology.

“What the Winter Gardens have to offer is sheer impressiveness.

“Nothing will happen overnight but we need to make the argument for it.”

Labour’s next two annual conferences will be held in Brighton and Manchester, but no decision has yet been made on where it will take place in 2014.

Among the 1,000 delegates present over the weekend was Matthew McEvitt, from Bispham.

Matthew, 20, said: “It’s the best venue and it’s certainly better than having it in Manchester.”

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