Conservatives unified on leaving European Union
It has been about a year since I took on the role of chairman of the Blackpool North and Cleveleys Conservatives, and to celebrate I attended my first political conference.
Sunday afternoon I packed my bags and headed off to Blackpool North to catch a train to Birmingham.
I arrived at the International Convention Centre bright and early Monday morning and was surprised at just how big the event was, I was impressed.
Walking around I saw information stands from businesses, charities, NGOs, and from places like the Falklands and Gibraltar.
There must have been 12,000 people in attendance and I was pleased to see what a diverse group of people we Conservatives are.
At least a quarter of these attending were under the age of 25 and I’m sure I did not see one twin set and pearls or a blue rinse once.
Everyone was so friendly.
In the evening receptions you could strike up a conversation with anybody about anything, including MPs and cabinet ministers.
Our own MP, hard-working Paul Maynard, was there and it was great he invited the Blackpool crowd for informal drinks.
Post-Brexit I was expecting a small-amount of division and argument, but I was pleased to say that when the Prime Minister says ‘Brexit means Brexit’ not only does she mean it, but so do 99.9 per cent of the party, even those who voted to remain.
There was a focused determination from all those I spoke to and those I listened to, to get on with the job of running the country, this is in stark contrast to reports from the Labour Party Conference, which one spokesman from an NGO described as, “Going to a wake of someone you didn’t really like, just there out of politeness.”
So from division of Labour, we see unity with the Conservatives, and with a serious hard working leader, a growing membership nationally and locally, we are a party on the up.
See for yourselves next year by attending conference in Manchester.
Regeneration is essential
I remember going to Birmingham over 50 years ago and thinking at the time, ‘what a horrid place’.
Until last week I hadn’t been back, so was surprised at just how much better it is now.
The new ‘Grand Central’, or Birmingham New Street Station knocks your socks off. It is welcoming, bright, light, and full of shops, cafes, restaurants, it is a destination in its self.
I understand this level of regeneration is expensive and that as a country we do have to live within our means.
It also takes vision, and the city of Birmingham is known for its visionaries, like Joseph Chamberlain. It also needs a degree of civic capacity that I think is sadly lacking in Blackpool.
I know seaside towns like Brighton are also regenerating at a pace.
So why isn’t Blackpool doing the same? The council leader in his column last week said the council is going to borrow and spend.
That sounds like good news, but I am sure many of these other towns and cities haven’t borrowed on the public expense, but have attracted private investment. I hope the council hasn’t let its hard left ideology prevent them for seeking private investment and I hope they have thought about what the long term consequences of council borrowing can do to the taxpayers of Blackpool.
One final point, it is estimated the economy of Birmingham had a cash injection as a result of conference being there of £19m over four days.
Bars, restaurants, cafes etc were full of people spending money. Imagine what that would do to Blackpool.
So let us seize the day and opportunity, seek private investment and make Blackpool the Birmingham of the North West – regenerated, prosperous and host Conservative Party Conference once more.
Helping pupils fulfill potential
As a former principal of a local school, I was determined to listen to Education Secretary Justine Greening’s speech to conference.
Along with the usual conference speech messaging came a special announcement that will really benefit Blackpool in my view.
The Government wants to build a country that works for everyone and at the heart of that is reform to education to ensure every child leaves school achieving the best they can. Despite the best efforts of many local teachers, heads and learners, Blackpool is not achieving the educational success that I believe it could. I was delighted to hear the Government has chosen Blackpool to be an Opportunity Area with a £60m fund to share with a several other areas.
This scheme will look specifically at the barriers that seem to be holding Blackpool’s children down. Every child should reach his or her own potential and I really hope those involved can make the most of this opportunity.