Political parties could be back next

The GMB conference is returning to Blackpool
The GMB conference is returning to Blackpool
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Hopes have been raised that Blackpool can once more host the main political conferences after one of Britain’s largest unions announced it is returning to the resort.

As reported in The Gazette yesterday, the GMB general workers union is to bring 1,000 delegates to the town when it holds its annual conference at the Winter Gardens in June 2020.

It will be among the first conferences at the new £25m conference centre being built at the landmark.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on Blackpool Council, said: “Regardless of any difference of opinion on the design and placement of the conference unit, attracting large conferences back to Blackpool has to be good for the local economy.

“It will be good timing in the shoulder months of the year to help extend the season.

“Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard and I are also lobbying the Conservative party to return to Blackpool.

“Re-establishing our once thriving conference business has to be one of the top priorities for the town.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said he would also like to see Labour bring its annual national conference back.

He said: “Of course I would support any proposal to bring Labour back, and we should be pressing it home to the relevant committee of the party.

“I hope the fact the GMB has made this decision will be a good signal for the council to lobby the party for the future.”

During a visit to Blackpool as part of the General Election campaign last month, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said he was impressed with the investment at the Winter Gardens, and wanted to see Labour return.

He said he would be asking the Labour team to get in touch with the council.

Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said the return of the GMB was long awaited news for accommodation operators.

She said: “June is a good time of year to get a boost, there will be a lot of delegates and they are staying a decent amount of time.

“There will be a good mix of delegates and Blackpool can offer accommodation to suit every pocket.”

Michael Williams, managing director at the Winter Gardens, said; “We are delighted the GMB has chosen to return to Blackpool for their annual conference.

“Their confidence in the resort is testimony to the ongoing investment not only in the Winter Gardens but also across the resort.”

The GMB is Britain’s third largest union, and in recent years has met in Plymouth, Bournemouth and Brighton.

Last year its main speaker was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Read Tom Watson’s interview here