Turning the official welcome into a political speech, Mrs Sweeting invited John Major and his ministers to visit Brighton's homes, hostels and advice centres as well as its royal palace.
'You will not see a nation at ease with itself, nor will you see the classless society which the Prime Minister has said he wishes to create. In the south-east of England . . . we have felt the recession in every home, in every workplace, in every office and in every high street store and corner shop. It is a recession that has hurt, is hurting and shows no signs of letting up.'
Above angry protests, Mrs Sweeting appealed to the Government to allow councils like Brighton to spend the money they had received from house sales on building social housing. 'Underneath Brighton's piers every night and in shop doorways you can see people sleeping rough,' she said. Hundreds more were living in bed and breakfast hotels and temporary accommodation.
Jibes at Mrs Sweeting in the following debates were loudly applauded, particularly that of Mark Francois, a Basildon councillor, who wanted to see the mayor and all Labour councils 'consigned to the political graveyard where they rightly belong'.
The former Conservative mayor of Bath Elgar Jenkins said no mayor did his or her cause any good by bringing politics into an official welcome.
With heavy irony, Sir Norman Fowler, the Conservative Party chairman, thanked Mrs Sweeting 'for warming up this conference so successfully'.Reuse content