The Labour Party in Blackpool: Warm reception as Scargill plays the golden oldies: On the Front

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The Independent Online
ROUND the corner Bobby Davro was playing, supported by the Krankies and Freddie and the Dreamers. Old acts, but class acts. And yesterday Arthur played the Winter Gardens.

Scargill is not the man he was. The jowls have fallen. The candyfloss top-hair is now just a summer mist upon the meadow of his skull - despite the dropping of the parting to a point where a bypass will soon be needed to get round his left ear.

But Arthur can still raise hairs, and bums from seats, in the conference hall. No matter that they are trad tunes - they get the old reception. Not that that bothers Arthur. He just ploughs on through the applause like a police horse through a picket line. John Smith let his lips loose and constructed a smile from them. Twice.

Yesterday Arthur was also gloriously brief. That was not the case at Wednesday night's rally for miners sacked during the 1984-85 strike. This was held at short notice in another prim Blackpool hotel: the Trades Club had double- booked, and they decided they'd rather have Tony Codey's drums and organ band. At the Ruskin the staff did not know what to expect. A small waiter bravely spread himself across the restaurant doorway, shrieking 'No, no, no. Not in here]' Odd, since the bulk of the audience could be mistaken for average Blackpool holidaymakers.

And we were well behaved, though the basement room was stifling, and Arthur went on and on. After 30 minutes, a female Yorkshire voice said quietly, amid the cheers: 'Oooh. Scargillism. It takes a long time.' Which is true. We refought Orgreave, inquiries into his finances (Arthur, share-owning capitalist, has ' pounds 40 in the Co-op, pounds 50 in the Morning Star'), British Coal, 'a bigger crook than Maxwell', and 'the whole capitalist system throughout the world', which was, he said, in crisis - 'You don't have to be a whizz kid to work out the reason. It's the capitalist system.' Oldies but goldies.

Curiously, another old Yorkshire cranky was performing just down the coast at Lytham.

Here, by giving pounds 5 to a cancer charity and posing as a Lancashire businessman, you could catch Sir Bernard Ingham doing his bit for the country, Baroness Thatcher's memory, and Kill The Messenger, Sir Bernard's autobiography - copies available after the show.

Under rather servile questioning, Sir Bernard showed just how a minor civil servant becomes a statesman. He put together an argument against a Maastricht referendum: 'If we had referenda we probably wouldn't have abortion now. We'd have no immigration (scattered applause) and we'd have a hell of a lot of hanging (much applause).'

Lady Thatcher, he said, should go to the Conservative conference, but should not say anything. Carry on, Sir Bernard.

Sir Bernard, though rather less charming, is just as winningly unreconstructed as Scargill. 'Is there a problem with an underclass in Britain?'

He pronounced: 'There is an enormous amount of injustice in Britain. It isn't the fault of the Government. Actually, it's the fault of local authorities and the education system.' Well, that's how Sir Bernard got his knighthood. But Arthur's still got his job.

WE asked for reconstruction of Labour's dull conference slogan, 'Agenda for Change'. Subversive Gouldist anti-Maastrichtisms appeared everywhere: Go Hang Dane Farce, or Aha] End For EC Gang. But the best, at the end of this week, was John Muldoon's Haggard On A Fence.