The Labour Party was in power. The Labour Party was in town. In Brighton, on 3 October 1966. All was not well in the state of Britain. The French newspapers did not hesitate to mention the fact: Prime Minister Harold Wilson was announcing a pay freeze; 750 strikers from car-plants in the Middlands (sic) had marched on Brighton and were shouting, according to Paris-presse, l’Intransigeant newspaper, at members of the cabinet:
To cap it all, the newspaper headline thundered:
Alain Manevy goes on to explain:
Note: It was in fact Edward Heath, Conservative Prime Minister, who oversaw the 1975 referendum which took Britain into the Common Market.
So, all the normal cut-and-thrust of a party conference, reported more or less accurately by French and British newspapers.
Why then did the reporter of Paris-press, l’Intransigeant, Alain Manevy, get it so wrong about the venue of the conference:
The Beatles appeared three times in Brighton – and only ever at the Hippodrome in Middle Street. Boxing often took place in Hove Town Hall or in the Sports Stadium in West Street.
The Labour Party Conference of 1966 took place in the brand-new Top Rank Entertainment Centre, just south of the Sports Stadium. Indeed, the Centre was barely out of wraps. The Daily Mirror was full of praise for those who had got the it ready in time:
The explanation for the reporter’s error: Until 1966 both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party had frequently held their party conferences in the Brighton Sports Stadium in West Street. The James Gray photograph (above) from the Regency Society collection (Vol 7 #116) shows the Stadium in October 1965. On the left is the new Top Rank Entertainment Centre under construction.
The Google image below shows much the same view today: the former Top Rank Centre (now the Prysm nightclub and the Odeon cinema) is itself under threat of demolition; the Sports Stadium / Ice Rink was demolished in 1966, the site left derelict until 1991 when a modern hotel was built (Travelodge in 2021).
The charitable view of the reporter’s error would be that he had not attended the conference in person and had not done his homework. A less charitable view might be that he did attend the conference in person, perhaps over-indulged on Press Room hospitality and not spotted the difference between a brand-new hall and an ageing ice rink?