Northern pride lay wounded today after the Labour Party rejected Blackpool as a venue for its annual conference.

Party bosses decided the Winter Gardens conference centre was too cramped, the hotels too shabby and the Lancashire town too far from London to host the conferences in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Instead, after this autumn's conference, when Labour is already booked to go to Blackpool, the party will go to Bournemouth in 1999 - for the first time since 1985 - and then to Brighton two years in a row.

Labour MPs for Scarborough and Selby today spoke of their regret at the decision, and called on Blackpool to improve its infrastructure so that Labour could return to the resort in 2002.

John Sykes, of GE Sykes & Son Coaches in York, said Blackpool was a very popular destination for day trippers from North Yorkshire, and could not understand why Labour had shunned it.

Scarborough's MP, Lawrie Quinn, said he personally preferred Blackpool to Brighton or Bournemouth. He said there was no prospect of Scarborough competing to host such a conference, because it did not have a single venue big enough.

York MP Hugh Bayley said today he liked Blackpool as a conference venue, but the Winter Gardens were "well past their sell-by date."

He added: "The last time I was in the exhibition area, the roof was leaking over a major York exhibitor. They need to invest in a decent new conference centre, and, when they do, we should go straight back there."

Harrogate Liberal Democrat MP Phil Willis said even the spa town, with its modern conference centre, was too small for a Labour Party conference, though it has successfully hosted Lib Dem conferences in the past. York was the successful venue for last weekend's Ecofin conference, but has the same problems.

John Grogan, Labour MP for Selby, said: "I have many happy memories of conferences at Blackpool. "It has a special charm."

But York student Mike Fletcher, 21, who hails from near Blackpool, said: "It is probably getting a bit past it for big conferences because it is quite scruffy."

Do you have memories of holidays in Blackpool, or views on Labour's decision? Write to The Evening Press at 76-86, Walmgate, York, YO1 1YN.

See COMMENT Labour's going soft on the south

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