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12 May 2014

Conference is usually opened – and a welcome to the town offered – by the local mayor. But the mayor of Brighton, Denise Cobb, is a Conservative. So ASLEF invited Steve, who isn’t a Conservative, and is an awful lot funnier, to welcome us to Brighton instead.

The invitation might also have something to do with the fact that our national organizer, Simon Weller, still treasures a cartoon Steve drew many years ago,of Brighton station, because Steve has lived here for 30 years.

‘It’s unusual for me to be asked to open a conference,’ he said. ‘Because I normally take the piss out of them. But I like conferences. Especially when they’re packed with psychotic, swivel-eyed, shiny, well-presented Tories. They’re very funny.

‘I remember one Tory, at one conference, loving his three minutes in the spotlight, and when the traffic lights came on to tell him he was running out of time, he reached into a very large Tesco bag, picked out a rare leg of lamb,and began whirling it around his head, yelling “Stop the madness, stop the madness.” That’s why conferences are so fascinating…

‘The Tories used to come to Brighton. What stopped the Tories coming to Brighton was not the bombing at the Grand Hotel, they came after that, but what killed Brighton for the Tories was when they came, after that terrible defeat of ’92,when Labour was thrashed by John Major, and it was a Labour authority here in Brighton, and Gill Sweeting, the then mayor, was invited to welcome them to the town. You know the sort of thing. The mayor welcomes the delegates, enjoy yourself, use the facilities, get pissed, buy drugs, you know the sort of thing. Except Gill lectured them about unemployment and they didn’t like it one bit and they haven’t been back since. It was politically brilliant, but not commercially such a good move.

‘Welcome to Brighton…’

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