Brighton and Hove MPs call for the return of the party conference

Posted On 25 Sep 2011 at 9:17 pm

Two of Brighton and Hove’s three MPs have urged their party to consider the city as a conference venue.

Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, and Hove MP Mike Weatherley made the joint plea as politicians have been heading off to their annual party conferences.

The pair have written jointly to one of their senior colleagues – Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude – to highlight what Brighton and Hove has to offer.

They hope to encourage the return of the Tory conference for the first time since 1992 – as they gear up to go to Manchester.

Mr Kirby said: “As a vibrant, creative, inclusive and forward thinking city, Brighton’s values seem ideally suited to welcoming the modern Conservative Party.”

Mr Weatherley said: “The Conservative Spring Conference last year, held in Brighton, demonstrated exactly what our great city has to offer delegates from across the country.

“The wealth of excellent bars, restaurants, shops and hotels, as well as attractions such as the Pavilion and the pier, will show Brighton at its best.”

Improvements

As well as championing the city, the MPs also drew attention to the recent improvements to the Brighton Centre.

These include the extensive refurbishment to the main entrance including the exterior space, signage and lighting.

They said that they hoped that the improvements would ensure conferences continued to come to Brighton and Hove, bringing welcome revenue.

Mr Kirby and Mr Weatherley added: “We are always keen to talk Brighton and Hove up and promote our city at any opportunity.

“We are lucky to represent such a fantastic place with so much to offer and will continue to encourage people to come to Brighton and Hove.”

The party won’t be coming back to Brighton next year, though, as it has already booked Birmingham.

For many years the main parties tended to hold their autumn conferences in one of three seaside resorts – Blackpool, Bournemouth or Brighton.

The Tories have chosen Brighton 14 times since the end of the Second World War, coming here in 1947, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1992.

In 1980 Margaret Thatcher made her famous “U-turn” speech: “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”

In October 1984 the IRA bombed the Grand hotel during the Tory conference.

When the Tories came back in 1988 the Labour Mayor of Brighton, Councillor Pat Hawkes, broke with convention, making a party political speech rather than sticking to the traditionally neutral welcome.

Labour held conferences in Brighton as far back as 1929 and 1935. Since the war it has held its autumn conference in the town 21 times, from 1957 until its most recent visit in 2009.

From the opening of the Brighton Centre in the mid 1970s and through the 1980s and 1990s it came almost every other year.

In 1983 Neil Kinnock was elected Labour leader and took a stroll along the beach, only to stumble and take a tumble on the pebbles.

The party held its conference here in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2009.

This year it went to Birmingham. Next year the venue is Manchester. In 2013 the party has chosen Bournemouth and in 2014 it is due to return to Manchester.

The Liberal Democrats came in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007 – and are due back next year.

The Greens held their annual conference in Hove in 2006 and 2009.

When they come to town the main parties and the TUC are credited with giving the local economy a seven-figure boost.

Hotels, bars and restaurants are the main beneficiaries along with shops nearest to the Brighton Centre.

The boost has been mitigated by the cost of security for much of the past few decades.

And the conference “ring of steel” has led some to question the size, nature and distribution of the financial benefits, with critics saying that it deters many from coming to the area.

Few though doubt the value of the accompanying media exposure.

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