PM launches Labour's seaside manifesto
Stephen PullingerAs Gordon Brown arrived in Great Yarmouth yesterday afternoon to announce Labour's seaside manifesto, local tourism leaders were warning about the need to invest in road infrastructure and the crippling effect tax rises would have on their industry.Stephen Pullinger
As Gordon Brown arrived in Great Yarmouth yesterday afternoon to announce Labour's seaside manifesto, local tourism leaders were warning about the need to invest in road infrastructure, and the crippling effect tax rises would have on their industry.
Bank holiday trippers braving bracing, blustery weather looked bemused as the prime minister's cavalcade of vehicles drew up on the seafront slow lane normally reserved for the resort's landaus.
Accompanied by his wife Sarah, secretary of state for communities and local government John Denham, local Labour candidate Tony Wright and Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne - who was announced as seaside "tsar" on one of the day's earlier whistle-stops in Ipswich - he strode purposefully along the seafront shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with holidaymakers.
With television cameras trained on him from all directions there was a real sense of the election campaign hotting up - but no doubt haunted by memories of Rochdale, his aides kept tight control and a small group of Tory activists with banners were kept at a safe distance.
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After passing through one caf� - purely as a photo opportunity for photographers - he moved on to the Las Palmas caf� in Marine Parade for a cappuccino and plate of chips (which hardly got touched such was the swiftness of his visit).
It was there that he gave a reassurance to Peter Williamson, boss of Yarmouth's Merrivale Model Village and chairman of Norfolk Tourist Attractions Association, that Labour had no plans to increase VAT to reduce the deficit, just the rise in national insurance.
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Mr Williamson had brought along the Mayor of Merrivale, one of his models, to pose the question, saying a VAT rise would be "catastrophic" for tourism businesses.
Mr Brown also gave a pledge on improving Norfolk's transport links - a key concern raised by Yarmouth hotelier Aileen Mobbs - saying funds were already committed to complete A11 dualling and that a new Labour government would move forward positively to deliver Yarmouth's much-needed third river crossing.
Praising the record of Mr Wright as Yarmouth's MP, he said: "You can see all the regeneration taking place here and that is a tribute to his hard work."
Mr Brown said all the investment in Yarmouth had helped to create lasting jobs and he pointed out that unemployment in the resort had been twice as high during the last recession in the 1990s.
Mr Denham said Labour's seaside manifesto showed their commitment to seaside towns; the Tories on the other hand would risk undermining all the good work by abolishing regional development agencies that had provided such a lot of regeneration funding.
He highlighted the manifesto's pledge to ensure seaside towns were not excluded from high-speed broadband, and Labour's commitment to support piers - "a unique part of a seaside's historic infrastructure" - by working with the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Mr Bannatyne, clearly relishing his new role, said he would be advising seaside businesses in the same way he had been helping struggling attractions on his latest television show Seaside Rescue.
Labour's seaside manifesto highlights the work done since 1997, reminding people of the East of England Development Agency's �86m investment in coastal areas like Yarmouth.
It also emphasises Labour's commitment to heritage projects, its Sea Change programme funding the regeneration of Yarmouth's King Street quarter.
For the future, it declares its commitment to helping coastal towns exploit the offshore wind energy industry, delivering a new phase of the Sea Change programme, supporting piers and promoting festivals.