Politics

Workington Man turned Tory in 2019 however slipped again to Labour in UK native elections | Native elections 2022


When a Conservative-supporting thinktank tried to analyse the forthcoming 2019 basic election, it dreamed up an archetypal swing voter who it stated can be key to a Tory victory.

Winning over the “Workington Man” – a leave-voting, rugby league-loving, white, working-class, jaded Labour supporter aged over 45 – can be essential, it stated.

The stereotype was obtained by many within the former mining city in Cumbria as crude and insulting. But the underlying premise – that long-time Labour voters had been inching in direction of the Tories – carried some fact. In the 2019 election, the “red wall” of Labour heartlands crumbled as voters turned their backs on Jeremy Corbyn. In Workington, the Tory Mark Jenkinson was elected MP.

Last week, nonetheless, there have been indicators that the tide might be turning. In the native elections, Labour received a big majority, taking 30 out of 46 seats on the brand new Cumberland council, which is able to cowl Copeland, Carlisle and Allerdale (together with Workington), in contrast with the Tories’ seven. In a triumphant 5.30am Facebook publish, native Labour councillors introduced the information. “The Workington Man has voted Labour,” they stated.

For Bronwen Stringer, 45, Workington Man is an thought dreamed up by the London elite. “I don’t know where they got it from,” she says. “They don’t give a monkey’s chuff about us.” But, she says, she shares among the traits related to the fictional swing voter. “I’m a Workington woman. I’m one of the ones that’s on the fence.”

Woman sits on edge of her market stall, collection of boxes behind her, wearing zip-up jacket with picture of husky dog
Bronwen Stringer runs a market stall and doesn’t take care of political stereotypes. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

A market-stall holder with three kids, Stringer has beforehand voted Labour and helps the celebration’s native politicians, however backed Boris Johnson within the 2019 election as a result of she “didn’t like Corbyn as a person”.

She’s but to make her thoughts up about how she’ll vote within the basic election, however is edging again in direction of Labour. “I quite like the leader they’ve got now. Is it Keir Starmer?” she says. “He seems a bit more transparent than the Borises of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I like Boris as a person and I could imagine having a good crack with him. It’s just this Partygate thing… My kids’ grandma passed away on her own. That’s what sticks with me.”

A former motorcycle store proprietor, Rob Fisher, 61, additionally voted for Johnson in 2019 as a result of he supported Brexit and thought Tory insurance policies “suited our needs” as enterprise homeowners.

Since then, his assist has waned. He didn’t end up for the native elections and isn’t certain he’ll vote subsequent time, both. “I’ve always voted but this time I just thought, ‘No’,” he stated. “They’re all a load of lying idiots. Everything they’ve said they were going to do they haven’t done, and everything they said they wouldn’t do, they did.”

Another Workington resident additionally voted for Johnson in 2019. “I’ve always been Labour but I did vote Conservative at the last general election. I thought Boris would be a better leader,” the retired electrician, 86, stated. Last week, he voted for Labour after a B-road by his home was changed into an A-road, growing site visitors noise.

“Labour are the only ones who mentioned it,” he stated. But whereas he is aware of he wouldn’t vote for Johnson once more, his assist for Labour doesn’t lengthen to the nationwide management. “Boris won’t get my vote. I couldn’t trust him now with anything. But I don’t think I’d vote for Labour either,” he stated.

Labour’s Andy Semple, who received a seat on Cumberland council, places his victory all the way down to old style campaigning, reasonably than the celebration’s nationwide management. “It’s boots on the ground and leaflets through the door. It’s not rocket science,” he stated.

Brexit, he stated, was “the only big reason that Workington went Conservative” in 2019. But this time round, “it just wasn’t mentioned”, with doorstep conversations as a substitute dominated by considerations about meals, gas and the prices of dwelling.

The relative invisibility of the nationwide chief additionally helped. While Corbyn turned voters off, Starmer hardly got here up. “I’m a Keir Starmer fan; I voted for him. But to me, a national leader in the local elections should be the silent leader, a quiet leader. If he’s dominating the agenda they’re not voting for you as the local candidate,” he stated.

Man standing in street wearing dark jacket. Background is in soft focus
Rob Fisher voted for Boris Johnson in 2019 however didn’t end up this time. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

His win within the former Tory stronghold of Cockermouth South – which he likens to a “Workington Wandsworth” – suggests Labour’s consequence was not simply all the way down to outdated supporters returning to their roots, but in addition long-time Tory voters switching allegiance. “It’s the start of a new dawn,” he stated. “We’re starting to win people’s trust.”

Elizabeth Mallinson, a Tory councillor who misplaced the Stanwix Urban seat in Cumberland to the Lib Dem candidate, with 559 votes to 1,472, needs she had the good thing about a silent chief. She blames her loss on Johnson. “People were absolutely livid. The answer on the doorstep for me was, ‘It’s toxic in London. We’ve got rules and regulations and we’ve all obeyed them and they should obey them’,” she stated. “I’m rather cross that London has pulled the rug from under local politicians.”

While the outcomes had been “really disappointing” for the Tories, she doesn’t consider that nationally, Labour has it within the bag. “This is a wake-up call for the government, and also for the Labour party. They’re not all sitting in a bed of roses because we’ve got Greens and Liberal Democrats.” The Lib Dems took 4 seats on the brand new Cumberland council, the Greens two and independents three. But in Westmorland and Furness, the neighbouring Cumbria council, the Lib Dems received 36 of the 65 seats to grab total management.

Will Tanner, director of Onward – the right-leaning thinktank that invented “Workington Man” – stated it was too early to guage the importance of Labour’s native election success. He described the outcomes as “underwhelming at best” for the Conservatives. But he stated he suspected Labour’s success in Cumberland was all the way down to native points – “everything from bin collections to antisocial behaviour”, reasonably than nationwide elements.

“You do see the broad continuation of the trend that Workington Man was the archetype for,” he stated. “But Workington itself seems to have been slightly anomalous.”

“If you look at other results around the country, you’ll see the effect that Workington Man represented – ie the shift of northern and Midlands voters towards the Conservatives – continuing in other ways. Workington Man was not just about Workington. It was also about Newcastle-under-Lyme, it was also about Walsall, Nuneaton, Wakefield and Wigan.”



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