26th September 2008

Conservatives set for seaside return

The 2008 Conservative party conference might still be a few days away, but attentions are already being turned to future. . .

<p>The 2008 Conservative party conference might still be a few days away, but attentions are already being turned to future incarnations of the event. This year, the party conference will take place in Birmingham, but conference organisers are already considering where to hold the annual gathering in 2012.</p><p>While Manchester is set to host the conference in 2009 before the event returns once again to Birmingham in 2010, Blackpool has been invited to bid for the symposium in 2012, the local Gazette newspaper reports. The Lancashire town was, of course, the scene of David Cameron's now infamous walkabout speech this time last year, in which he rallied his troops in preparation for what was assumed to be an inevitable autumn election. In the end it was the election that never was so Mr Cameron's efforts were largely in vain, although he did succeed in turning the tide and seizing the initiative from prime minister Gordon Brown, who blotted his copybook over his handling of the affair.</p><p>Blackpool might be most famous for its tower, beach and donkeys, but it has also long played a part in the political conference season. The Conservative party conference of 2007 was held at the town's Winter Gardens complex, and presumably will be again in 2012 if the town's bid proves successful. So ingrained is Blackpool's standing as a political conference venue that the owners of the Winter Gardens assert that every British prime minster since the second world war has made a speech there - while its other claims to fame include the fact that it has hosted the World Matchplay darts tournament every summer since July 1994 and the Blackpool Dance Festival every year since its inception in 1920.</p><p>The Winter Gardens, a complex of theatres and conference facilities, was first opened in 1878, although most parts of the current building on the site only date back to the 1930s. It lies close to the Blackpool tower and as such is just 250 metres from the sea. It houses a number of venues including the Opera House and Pavilion theatres, the Olympia exhibition hall, the Empress Ballroom and the Arena and Spanish Hall and, according to councillor Maxine Callow, the cabinet member for tourism and regeneration at Blackpool Council, has proved popular with political parties - particularly the Conservatives.</p><p>However, Ms Callow believes that even if the venue was unpopular it should still be supported as the political conference season plays a key role in supporting the economies of seaside towns.<br/> <br/>"The Conservatives are very fond of the Winter Gardens. Manchester and Birmingham may be very functional but a lot of the delegates like Blackpool," she confirmed in the Blackpool Gazette.</p><p>"The reason the political conferences came to the seaside resorts in the first place was to help to extend their seasons. I'm not going to this year's conference in Birmingham on principle. No way. These cities have had enough help, the political parties should be helping the seaside towns."</p><p>While the major political parties might have shunned the seaside towns this year, Blackpool has not been entirely rejected - the Green party is due to hold its conference in Blackpool next March. </p><p><img alt="ADNFCR-1753-ID-18798497-ADNFCR" src="http://feeds.directnews.co.uk/feedtrack/justcopyright.gif?feedid=1753&it..." /></p>