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US News 'The idea that we're all simple northerners is causing widespread offence': The people of Workington hit back at 'stereotypical' think-tank study by ex-David Cameron aide that paints them as key to winning next election

19:40  30 october  2019
19:40  30 october  2019 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Workington men have hit back at a ‘patronising stereotype’ used to describe them as a target demographic Think tank Onward said the Conservatives would have to win the hearts and minds of the Allan Mitchell, 53, a civil servant from Workington , said people from the area ‘don’t like being

" The idea that we ' re all simple northerners without the university degrees they seem to think are standard, and all attend rugby league matches at the weekend Since the Workington constituency was created in 1918, the Conservatives have never won the seat as a result of a general election .

  'The idea that we're all simple northerners is causing widespread offence': The people of Workington hit back at 'stereotypical' think-tank study by ex-David Cameron aide that paints them as key to winning next election © Getty

So-called 'Workington Man' has hit back at the 'patronising' stereotype of rugby league-loving 'simple northerners' being used by Westminster's policy wonks as they plot their pitches to Britain's voters.

Right-of-centre thinktank Onward said the key to the Conservatives winning the December 12 General Election was them winning over disillusioned northern areas and an archetypal voter they called 'Workington Man'.

The idea is the brainchild of Lord O'Shaughnessy, a former Director of Policy for David Cameron, who wrote a report for Onward, a group which was founded by Will Tanner, a former adviser to Theresa May.

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According to the group, Workington man is 'an older, white, non-graduate man from the north of England with an interest in rugby league and a tendency to vote Labour'. Tories hope disillusionment with Labour's flip-flopping over Brexit will cause voters to turn to them.

But men from Workington, a coastal town in the North West, today trashed the buzzword, saying it describes someone from the 1970s, not 2019.

John Inman standing in front of a building: But hotelier Grant Payne, 74, said other issues apart from Brexit would influence voters in the town © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited But hotelier Grant Payne, 74, said other issues apart from Brexit would influence voters in the town

Allan Mitchell, 53, a civil servant from Workington, said people from the area 'don't like being patronised' and the concept could backfire on the Tories.

He said: 'The idea that we're all simple northerners without the university degrees they seem to think are standard, and all attend rugby league matches at the weekend, is causing widespread offence. It's a cliche that belongs in the 1970s.' 

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a man standing in front of a building: Retired Keith Ackerley, 72, said he thought the election was a distraction from the real issues © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Retired Keith Ackerley, 72, said he thought the election was a distraction from the real issues Ryan Rodgers, who has lived in Workington all his life, agreed that things on the ground were more complicated.

The boiler operator, 37, said: 'There are so many sides to the story... I think more things than Brexit will influence the way people vote.'

He added: 'I work for a Swedish company and I am regretting voting for Brexit... I don't agree that the "Workington Man" is going to have a big influence on the election result.'

a sign on the side of the road: Political gurus in the Tory party hope they can cash in place like Workington in December © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Political gurus in the Tory party hope they can cash in place like Workington in December

Hotelier Grant Payne, 74, also thought the stereotype is misleading.

a man wearing a hat: Frederick Chandler is closer to the 'Workington Man' idea, saying he is considering switching from Labour to the Tories © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Frederick Chandler is closer to the 'Workington Man' idea, saying he is considering switching from Labour to the Tories He said: 'I voted to leave the EU but I am not sure people will be focusing on Brexit when they vote in the general election. I think the main focus here will be on jobs.'

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At the last election, Labour won 51% of the vote, with the Conservatives getting 41%, suggesting the Tories would need around six per cent of the voters in the area to switch to them. 

a man wearing a hat: Jim Thompson, 75, said he felt ignored by the area's Labour MP © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Jim Thompson, 75, said he felt ignored by the area's Labour MP MailOnline did however meet some men whose political views did fit more closely to the 'Workington Man' stereotype put about by the thinktank.

Retired industrial process engineer Frederick Chandler, 69, who has has lived in Workington since 1991, has traditionally voted Labour but said he may vote Conservative in the general election.

a man that is standing in the street: Ken Hyde said he hoped too many people wouldn't vote for the Brexit Party, so that Jeremy Corbyn 'wouldn't get a look in' © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Ken Hyde said he hoped too many people wouldn't vote for the Brexit Party, so that Jeremy Corbyn 'wouldn't get a look in' Mr Chandler said: 'Normally I have voted Labour but because of the mess parliament has made with Brexit I have got to the stage where I think I would vote for Boris.

'He has a stronger attitude to leaving. He is flamboyant or whatever, that's his character, but I think he has the strongest potential to be able to get us to leave.'

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James O'Shaughnessy wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Lord O'Shaughnessy, former Director of Policy for David Cameron, wrote the report from which the Tories' idea of 'Workington Man' eminated © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Lord O'Shaughnessy, former Director of Policy for David Cameron, wrote the report from which the Tories' idea of 'Workington Man' eminated

Jim Thompson, 75, a retired chemist, added: 'Our Labour MP hasn't taken any notice of us voting to leave.

'I will be voting Conservative. I don't think the people have heard anything from Corbyn. He hasn't made a decision about Brexit - is he on the fence, off the fence, fallen off the fence?'

a man standing on a sidewalk: Workington high street today. Some said they welcomed more attention for their area but others felt 'patronised' by the view of voters © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Workington high street today. Some said they welcomed more attention for their area but others felt 'patronised' by the view of voters

Ken Hyde, 77, a retired site supervisor at the local paper mill, said: 'There's a lot of people that have been staunchly Labour all their lives and they are refusing to vote Labour while Corbyn is in charge.

'I know some people who said they will vote for the Brexit Party instead. I hope to God they don't because that will split the vote and it will be a total disaster if Jeremy Corbyn gets a look in.'

Keith Ackerley, 72, said: 'To be honest, I'm not particularly happy there is an election. It's more time and money spent elsewhere than on the real issues.' 

a large building with a mountain in the background: Workington has traditionally voted Labour but is the kind of constituency Boris Johnson is hoping to win over before December 12 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Workington has traditionally voted Labour but is the kind of constituency Boris Johnson is hoping to win over before December 12

The use of voter stereotypes as a targeting tactic dates back to at least Margaret Thatcher's repeated electoral wins in the 1980s where the working-class 'Essex man' switched allegiance from Labour to the Tories.

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Voter stereotypes used during previous elections include the 1996 'Mondeo man', the 1997 'Worcester woman', and the 2003 'Bacardi Breezer Generation' of 18 to 25-year-olds, among others.

One of the men behind the idea of 'Workington Man', Will Tanner, the founding director of thinktank Onward, hit back today after the idea was branded 'misogynistic'.

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He defended the idea, tweeting: 'The key archetypal swing voter is disproportionately likely, statistically, to be male & concentrated in Workington.

'Labour won a landslide by targeting Mondeo Man and Worcester Woman in 1997.'

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Vote victory helps Boris Johnson edge closer to pre-Christmas election .
The Government is on course for a December 12 general election after MPs rejected an opposition move to bring the date forward.The Commons voted by 315 to 295 to reject a Labour amendment for the election to be held on Monday December 9 – three days earlier than ministers wanted.

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