TOWIE for Ed?

31st December, 2011 12:42 pm

One of my earliest campaign memories is from the run-up to the 1997 election. I was a newly-joined party member and my presence was requested in Basildon to help out in Angela Smith’s campaign. Basildon was then a barometer seat. Despite boundary changes it still is a significant seat, although I doubt that winning here will necessarily mean government for the victor (although it did go Tory in 2010).

1997 was a good year for socialists in Essex when six Labour MPs were returned from my home county. Now all eighteen seats belong to the two governing parties; opposition has no home in Essex today.

It may be a gross generalisation, but describing the typical Essex man and woman is to describe people who are only a generation or two removed from London, most often the East End. Essex is home to Cockney barrow-boys done good.

Wheeling and dealing, dodgy and diving, getting on with a large dose of self-sufficiency, making one’s home the dreamt of castle – all this may portray a pastiche, but as a shorthand description for a county that embraced Thatcherism, and rejected her successor, it kind of works.

An inspection of Essex’s electoral history shows a county that embraces Conservatism. Yet, Labour’s breakthrough successes nationally came with famous victories in Essex constituencies.

To succeed in 2015 Ed Miliband has to succeed in Essex. Essex is not the only way for victory, but  a Labour Government that has no representatives from the most populous non-metropolitan county would be a gross distortion of a party claiming to be a truly national one.

So, how to succeed in Essex; I think the key word is ‘aspiration’. What Thatcher gave, and Major took away, were the keys to ambition. Paint a picture of prosperity, where hard work is rewarded, and I believe Essex will deliver. Labour has proved it can win in Wales, Scotland, and the north of England. Its ejection from government came when the south and east turned its back on Labour, and success must come with victories in these areas. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives can claim good representation across Great Britain, an unhealthy state of affairs, particularly for the largest party in the Commons. Labour must win back those areas we have gradually lost over the last fourteen years. Winning in Essex will prove that we will once again be ready for government.

  • Anonymous

    It would be funny if it was not so sad. How the word socialism and socialist can be used by people who think Thatcher was an inspiration.

    • Anonymous

      Blair won in 97 by picking up an running with Maggies legacy – he even visited her shortly after his first election victory.  As he and Labour drifted away from it over the following years, so did their support in the south.

      • Daniel Speight

        Blair’s drift away from Thatcher’s legacy was what exactly? Joe, do you mean the minimum wage, or what he regrets most of all, the ban on foxhunting? Afghanistan and Iraq can hardly be a drifting away from her legacy. His income taxing policy was probably lower than that of most of her administration’s time in office.

        Do you think it could possibly be that the drifting away of support may have been connected with exactly the opposite, that is sticking with the Thatcher legacy?

        Then again I suspect neither was the major cause. More likely in my view is the likeness to the Major government’s legacy of sleaze. New Labour did seem to be able copy that rather well.

  • James

    ” Labour has proved it can win in Wales, Scotland, and the north of England”
    And what do these areas have in common? they are all areas that are heavily dependant on the state directly or indirectly. Labour has become the party of the client state and that isn’t healthy.
    What many on the left do not seem to understand is that in many ways what the origianl labour movement fought for has happened and is now accepted by almost all. If this were 100 years ago when times and conditions were still truely victorain i dare say I’d be a socialist too, but it isnt and they arnt so im not. If labour wants to appeal to those like the Essex man in this article it needs to grow up and realize that the socialism that founded it is as out of date as the idea of the poor house and come up with policies and a mindset for the 21st century.

  • Jack Bonner

    So essentially the only way to win in Essex is to be a Tory-lite party? 

    • Test

      No, it’s to make a decent appeal to the general instincts of “Essex Man”: someone who works hard, likes a pint and a smoke, wants to make his own way in the world. A middle-class left student-union hack like Miliband is never going to cut the ice with Essex Man because Miliband is too obsessed with minorities and scroungers. He is more interested in pretending to the scroungers that the poor lambs are so hard done by, so he can build an electoral coalition from those he can bribe to vote Labour – and it’s Essex Man who will have to cough up more in tax to pay for it.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder whether the focus should actually be broadened to the ‘New Towns’.

    A similar picture as described for Essex was seen in most of the New Towns around London and those in the Midlands; previously Tory seats turning Labour in 1997 and gradually drifting back over the next 13 years.

  • Anonymous

    I think that you are absolutely right with this analysis.   Blair won in 97 by getting that aspirational middle-class vote and if Labour want to beat Cameron Ed will have to do the same.


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