YES says David Walker: at best it's a museum of working-class taste and hasn't bothered to change since the Fifties - even the chip fat is the same
OBAN may be darker, Rothesay wetter, Bournemouth dearer, Torquay harder to get to - and in Eastbourne the geriatric count is certainly higher - but among seaside towns Blackpool takes the biscuit as the all- round worst place to come, visit or confer.

And in Blackpool's case, it's a Garibaldi - stale, anachronistic and fly-blown. Cool Britannia, it isn't. It's not even attractive in a masochistic, nostalgie de la boue sense.

At best, it's a museum of working class taste. Here is a resort which acquired an identity in the days when a mill-hand from Oldham could have a paddle, drink six pints of Banks's, have a piddle, eat fish and chips and still have change from half a crown. It has not bothered to update since - even the chip fat is the same. The only things that have changed are the prices. Blackpool traders always were great gougers.

You don't have to be Richard Hoggart to notice that if, once, Blackpool's vulgarity was urgent, and its pleasures the fierce, gaudy, urgent pleasures of people with all too little leisure, nowadays it floats in a cultural no-man's land of plastic tat, entertainment that is second-rate even by the standards of day-time television, and catering which does not seem to have registered the arrival on these shores of McDonald's.

To be anti-Blackpool is not to be anti-North. Scarborough is a fine resort, with a dramatic setting, fresh sea food and bracing air. Even poor old Morecambe can boast of more - that magnificent marooned ship of the Midland Hotel, those magical sunset views across to the Lakeland peaks.

To be anti-Blackpool is not even to regret - as Nye Bevan used to regret - the poverty of working-class imagination. Working people have, since the late Fifties, travelled abroad, and come to expect professional standards. But when they come to the Fylde coast expectations seem to sink to zero.

The problems start on the front. Rough or smooth, the Irish Sea at Blackpool is always turbid. Beneath the murk float unspeakable things. Blackpool does not have sand or mud, but something oozing, shifting and indefinably else.

Along the front stretch, for those interminable miles between Lytham and Fleetwood, like the repeating pattern on the wallpaper which Blackpool landladies all seem to buy from the same stockist, the same shopping parades of chip shop, burger bar, amusement arcade and discount retailer, lit by "illuminations" swinging wildly in the October gales.

The famed trams creak their way past barely a single memorable building - beyond the tower and the Winter Gardens themselves (and Labour is right, they are too small for a modern conference). Blackpool sprawls, a huge urban mass, where the rules on town and country planning seem somehow to have been suspended. Houses seem either makeshift, unpainted or ineffably chintzy.

After a day on the prom, visitors retire to bedrooms which were last decorated in 1959. Nylon counterpanes sit on nylon sheets. As the watery light filters in through nylon curtains, you rise as the smell of bacon fat wafts through the corridors. Yoghurt and muesli are not on the breakfast menu.

As for the conventioneers, the fact is Blackpool rarely even recognises there is a big, sophisticated world out there, beyond hiking prices to metropolitan levels for party conference week. The Tories never dared complain - in public at least - for fear of seeming snobbish. But the blunt fact is that even in those hotels which charge as if they merited three or four stars, standards are poor.

Blackpool is the kind of place where to order the International Herald Tribune is to be greeted with a blank face; where the telecommunications revolution (requiring space for laptop in hotel rooms let alone a few extra telephone sockets) has not happened; where waiters seem always to be work experience youths who have learnt the completely unnecessary art of wrapping a napkin round a wine bottle, but cannot serve a Dover sole to save their lives.

And all they say about the difficulties of getting there are true. By road, the M6/M56 junction is often impassable. By rail the journey involves huddling at Preston into a two-coach diesel which always seems overheated and seems to take an age to get past Poulton.

If Tony Blair is serious about remaking party allegiance in Britain, let alone remaking Britain, he could hardly do anything of greater symbolic importance than decamping from Blackpool.

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