This essay was written by lower-sixth former Dominic Stagg, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to the full essay, which can be found at the bottom.
Estimated read time of abstract: 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 16 minutes
Throughout modern British electoral history, the useof political stereotypes to identify potentially decisive voters has become increasingly common within the mainstream media, and influential in dictating the way in which political parties’campaign. In the 2019 UK General Election, this trend manifested itself as ‘Workington Man’-an older, white man who traditionally supported the Labour Party but voted ‘Leave’ in the EU Referendum in 2016. The Conservative Party’s substantial victory was characterised by the supposed fall of the Labour Party’s ‘Red Wall’, a term used to describe traditionallyLabour-supporting constituencies based in North Wales, Northern England,and the Midlands, regions in which ‘Workington Man’ is concentrated. This would therefore suggestthat‘Workington Man’was extremely significant in shaping the outcome of the election.
However, whilst the significance of ‘Workington Man’ was undoubtable, the reasons that caused this momentous shift from Labour to Conservative remain less obvious. It is true that the 2019 election was dominated and polarised by Brexit, yet the root causes of the breaking down of inherent social, political, and economic barriers between ‘Workington Man’ and the Conservatives would appear to be more complex and deep-rooted. Therefore, in this essay, I sought to gain a greater insight into the various short-term and long-term factors that contributed to ‘Workington Man’s’ disenfranchisement from the Labour Party, that ultimately caused the majority of such an electorate to vote Conservative in 2019. These are divided into three similarly important sub-sections: Brexit, in both its exaggeration of growing social polarisation and, more profoundly, in the way it offered political empowerment, as well as cultural issues and economic issues. I concluded that 2019 marked the culmination of the interaction between these separate but overlapping factors, a point in which ‘Workington Man’ and the Conservatives became politically aligned. Furthermore, I argued that ‘Workington Man’s’ reasons for voting Conservative were rooted not just in the Conservative’s appeal, amore recent phenomenon arising from both Brexit and the Conservative’s cultural shift, but also in a feeling of marginalisation from the Labour Party that can be traced much further back.
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