The men of Workington have found themselves in a spotlight of sorts – or a flurry of political headlines at least – after a think tank marked them out as a key election target. Workington Man is 2019’s Worcester Woman. But who is he? And what do men in Workington – a former mining town on the Cumbrian coast – think of the stereotype?
According to Onward – the right-of centre-think tank that gave birth to the creation – Workington Man is older, white and Northern.
The imagined poster boy for “middle England” likes rugby league and Labour. He voted for Brexit and feels the country is moving away from his views.
Workington resident Tony Bland, 66, would like to see industry return to his home town, which has a rich industrial history of coal mining and steel making.
He said: “A lot of the big traditional industries have gone.
“I’d love to see more investment in the place, in this area, instead of it all being down south.”
He says he’ll be voting Conservative in December, and has done so in the past.
Allan Mitchell, 53, a civil servant from Workington, said people were “offended by the Conservatives’ northern stereotyping”, adding: “This may backfire.”
“People expect a campaign, but they don’t like being patronised,” he said.
“I’d expect all the parties to target voters in some way, and with Workington being a fairly marginal seat I can understand the Conservatives looking for any angle to gain more votes.
“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.”
Workington, which has a population of about 25,000, has been Labour for the last century except for a brief spell in the 1970s.
Since the constituency was created in 1918, the Tories have never won the seat at a general election.
Conservative MP Richard Page held the seat for three years following the 1976 by-election, and has been the only non-Labour MP to ever represent the constituency.
Labour’s Sue Hayman held the seat at the last general election in 2017 with 21,317 votes, ahead of Conservative Clark Vasey’s 17,392.
An estimated six in 10 voters in the town voted Leave in 2016.
Paul Wright, 53, said: “I don’t think there’ll be many people voting Tory in Workington, despite Brexit.
“I think there’s more distrust of the Tories than there is of wanting Brexit.”
Paul said he wanted to remain in the EU and would only vote Labour because voting for the Liberal Democrats would be a “wasted” vote.
But supporting Remain is a minority view in Workington – the Brexit Party topped the polls in the area in the European elections.
Geoff Bates, 59, says he is “definitely” voting for Nigel Farage’s party.
“Getting out of Europe, the people have voted for that. Why’s it gone over three years?” he said.
But if Geoff really is representative of “Workington Man”, his answer to whether he would vote for Boris Johnson will worry Downing Street: “Oh definitely not. He’s a fruitcake. I want Farage.”
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