Lord Patten: My town used to be a joke. Who's laughing now?

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The Independent Online

I was born just up the road from Blackpool – my mother moved there from Exeter during the Second World War while my father was serving in the Middle East – and I have always counted myself as a Blackpool lad, even though we left in 1947 when I was three. My dad took me to Wembley for the 1953 FA Cup Final, the great Stanley Matthews final, when Blackpool beat Bolton 4-3. I was only small, but that remains one of my great memories – seeing my hero perform the impossible.

Now Blackpool, supposedly a small club, has the chance to catch the imagination by playing in in the toughest league going. It will boost the hotels, the tourism industry and, I suppose, the local "WAG" trade. It will most of all recall those glory days of Matthews, Mortensen and Perry – and perhaps make metropolitan types reconsider their prejudices.

Most people who talk about Blackpool and the Fylde Coast do so with a sneer. They don't know the surrounding countryside and coast which are fantastically beautiful.

Yes, the beaches used to be an awful joke – they used to say that you couldn't swim off Blackpool Beach, you could only go through the motions. But now they are much cleaner, and the bathing is pretty good if you don't mind the usual Mediterranean temperatures.

It is a stunning part of the world, you can eat a fine English breakfast and follow that with a bracing walk along the beach. What more could you want?

Lord Patten was born in Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire in May 1944.