Labour's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Blackpool, Brexit and the future for the town

Mr McDonnell spoke at Labour's North West Conference in Blackpool.
Mr McDonnell spoke at Labour's North West Conference in Blackpool.
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The Labour Party held its North West Conference in Blackpool today and its Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, was one of the main speakers.

He spoke to a packed crowd at the Grand Hotel, and said it was "great to be back in the North West".

He responded to the Budget, which was announced on Monday, but he started his speech by mentioning the Preston New Road fracking site, and said: "When Labour get into government, lets be clear, fracking will be banned."

He also read out a text message from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with part of it saying: “You only need to step outside the conference hall to see the realities of austerity in Tory Britain."

In an exclusive interview with The Gazette, Mr McDonnell also said he enjoys visiting Blackpool and comes with his family when he can.

He said: "My daughters and grandchildren live in Colne so we come across to Blackpool quite a lot when I get the time to do so."

Mr McDonnell, born in Liverpool and an avid Liverpool FC supporter, commented on Blackpool FC's Caraboa Cup tie with Arsenal earlier in the week, which they lost 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

He said: "Blackpool did quite well the other night against Arsenal, they nearly upset Jeremy", referring to Mr Corbyn's affection for the North London club.

He gave praise to Blackpool North and Cleveleys parliamentary candidate Chris Webb and the MP for Blackpool South, Gordon Marsden and believes Mr Webb is the 'model' Labour candidate, adding: "You can't better."

He said: "He was born in the area, loves the area, knows it well and people in the street know him as well. He works with local community organisations and has dedicated his life to it. He has been brilliant.

"I came up here during the General Election when they opened up the new campaign office and I went out canvassing with him and on the doorstep.

“He would respond to every question with intimate knowledge of what was happening in the area and he has a clear view of what is needed. I just think he is so dynamic.

"If we can get him and Gordon into Parliament together, we could transform the representation in this area. Gordon is an assiduous MP, never lets anything pass in terms of Parliament and what happens in Blackpool. He has given his life to Blackpool and him and Chris together would be a fantastic partnership."

In response to Blackpool's majority vote to leave the European Union, and when asked if the resort can prosper after Brexit, he said he believes "it depends completely on the deal" that is achieved by the Government.

He added: "We've had rumours this weekend that there will be a deal of some sort announced in the next couple of weeks. The rumours that we have at the moment is that the summit will be on the November 21 and it will be in Parliament on December 1.

"If the deal protects jobs and the economy we will support it, if it doesn't we can't support it and we will look to demand another renegotiation to take place.

“And if the Government can't negotiate effectively, move to one side and we'll do it.

"If we can get the right deal we can bring the country together - traditional British compromise - and at the same time stabilise the economy. If we can't and there is a no deal, I think the economic will be catastrophic for every area."

Mr McDonnell also announced Labour will be holding a 'economic conference' in Blackpool on December 1, describing it like a 'town meeting' where they want to hear from people what the economy is like on the Fylde coast, as well as what the other issues affecting the town are.

He added: "Gordon Marsden and Chris Webb are ideal in terms of feeding information and then talking about the policies we are advocating and see if they will work in Blackpool and if not what else is there in addition to what were saying.

"I think in Blackpool, from what I have seen and the business I have done so far, it is about the investment of the infrastructure such as rail and digital structure. It's great living here but you'll be cut off if you don't have that infrastructure investment taking place.

"People will not invest unless they see accessible infrastructure. The other thing that Gordon has been campaigning about so long is about making sure the upskill is trained and effectively funded and its also the development of all the national education services at every level from childcare right the way through."