Can Cameron stop the ‘Basildon man’ from defecting to UKIP?

4:58 pm - April 11th 2012

by Carl Packman    

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During the 2001 election, which Tony Blair went on to win securing a second term, pollsters from ICM came up with the phrase “Pebbledash people” as the group the Tories had to woo in order for them to have a fighting chance of winning.

They were married couples aged 35 to 50, white-collar workers and professionals, who lived in semi-detached, often pebble dashed, homes in the suburb.

The group is just one example of cohorts, conveniently congealed together, that political parties feel they need to fight for in order to win an election.

With Thatcher, the “Basildon Man” or “Essex Man” explained her electoral success, while with Tony Blair he fondly remembers “Mondeo Man” who went on to be the face of New Labour’s new constituency.

In a recent YouGov poll, their volunteers decided which political parties their favourite soap stars would vote for.

Surprisingly (or stupidly) the majority of those who took part in the survey decided Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses would vote Labour, despite clearly being a typical working class Conservative.

Tim Montgomerie’s column in today’s Times (£) reveals a rumour that two Conservative MPs are “seriously considering” defecting to UKIP.

They would not be the first – there is Alexandra Swann, Bob Spink and Roger Helmer, too.

The type of voter being lost here looks and sounds a lot like how Campaign describe David Amess. UKIP are stealing “Basildon Man” from the Tories.

The question is can Cameron’s Tories afford to lose him? They could not get a majority last time, and since the departure of Steve Hilton, the chirpy chirpy compassionate conservative narrative has been silent.

But it has not been replaced with a politics that can usefully take on UKIP for the Tory right vote.

Has it got the bottle to fight for the political centre, or will it give in to the right closer to the election? Cameron has a pig of a job in the next few months!

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About the author
Carl is a regular contributor. He is a policy and research analyst and he blogs at Though Cowards Flinch.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Our democracy ,Westminster

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Reader comments

Basildon Man was not a Thatcher era idea – this was one way that John Major’s 1992 victory was explained, partly because the vacuous David Amess, then MP for Basildon (and prone to mention it as often as he could whenever he spoke, in the House or elsewhere) was expected to lose the seat, but hung on to win.

The UKIP story has one problem: it’s come from someone whose past record on credibility includes calling the July 2009 Guardian revelations on phone hacking as an attempt to score some revenge for the Damian McBride business. Montgomerie is a most agreeable chap, but his cluelessness is without parallel.

That said, perhaps there are Tory MPs – ones who aren’t going to stand at the next GE, or won’t have a realistic chance of a seat when the music stops (or maybe are being eased out behind the scenes) – who would be desperate enough to jump ship. Maybe Farage & Co have promised them a top spot on their EP candidates list. Not for the credible, though.

Ultimately, it’s the Tories’ problem, along with all the think tanks and lobby groups trying to heave the party to the right. So the issue of Europe comes back to split them once again. Couldn’t happen to a nicer crowd.

2. Root_for_Clute! (@Tommy_Funebo)

There is a lot going on. The uncertainty might even make Cameron think again about the Single transferable vote system of Ireland and Australia.

With his declaration of his intention to contest the next General Election at the head of a national network of Independent candidates forming the embryo of a new traditional-conservative formation, Peter Hitchens has blown out of the water any parliamentary ambitions on the part of UKIP, which he always calls “Dad’s Army” in by far the most influential newspaper column among its target voters.

UKIP can have its Strasbourg seats on its single issue basis, possibly even topping the poll next time. But backed by the mighty Mail on Sunday, or at least guaranteed plenty of coverage there, the battle to represent British paleoconservatism at Westminster is now being waged by someone else entirely, as suspicious or dismissive of UKIP as Respect is of the existing factions to the left of Labour, or as the founders of the SDP were of George Brown’s Social Democratic Alliance.

The two MPs said to be on the cusp of defecting would lose UKIP half of its voters at European Elections, who are Old Labour or, especially in the West Country, Old Liberal rather than Old Tory. Moreover, the Old Tory half is far from “free”-market libertarian, as these two no doubt are. Instead:

The historic patriotism and social conservatism of the Labour Movement has been almost completely purged from the House of Commons. As has the related sceptical and critical attitude of traditional Tories towards capitalism, consumerism, the American Republic and its culture, the Zionist project, and wars to make the world a better place.

The heirs of Liberal and Social Democratic calls for democracy and transparency, and campaigns against political extremism and (unlike me) against protectionism, now support the European Union’s undemocratic secrecy, its subjugation of us to the legislative will of Stalinists and neo-Nazis, and its Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, which are anything but protective.

Each of these three baleful tendencies has led to a neglect of the Commonwealth, of the Arab world and Iran, of the Slavic and Confucian worlds, and of Latin America. Those historic British ties could not be more important. Such ties as we have really ever had to Continental Europe and to the United States are less and less so, however much one might love Europe and America.

But hope is at hand. I have been inspired by the victory of George Galloway at Bradford West, and by the call from Peter Hitchens for traditional conservatives to become parliamentary candidates, as he himself might do. We need putative Independent candidates for the 2015 General Election. The Liberal, Conservative, Labour and Social Democratic Parties all emerged when parliamentarians from different parts of the country encountered each other and found themselves able to co-operate in the service of shared principles, aspirations and concerns.

To read the rest of this article (exactly 1600 words), those in a position to publish it, preferably for a fee, are invited to email

Tim Fenton (Jesus Christ) Fenton

Not according to the truthteller that is wikipedia –

The story is that it was coined in the sunday Telegraph in 1990 but it was retrospectively used to understand why Thatcher won areas notable for having Londoner emigrants whose families had set up home in the south East after the war. Demos in their report Basildon: Mood of the Nation have it this way too.

You’re not wrong, Tim, but neither am I. Ever. That goes for both of us.

“the survey decided Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses would vote Labour, despite clearly being a typical working class Conservative.”

Yes, a typical working class Tory operates his business out of a suitcase on a street corner and has 50 Betamax video recorders in his flat.

Thank you for your touching concern, which has been noted.

The Survation poll, as any fule kno, is a voodoo because it prompted for UKIP. Had it prompted for the Greens instead, we would be stood here discussing how (hot on the heels of Bradford West) Ed Miliband was shipping votes to the radical left.

If you really think we’re losing Basildon Man to UKIP, let’s see the results of Basildon borough’s elections in three weeks’ time and see.

7. Northern Worker

Don’t the opinion polls show a majority of voters in favour of leaving the EU? That’s UKIP’s only trump card, but it could have appeal. And after Galloway’s victory, perhaps voters are in the mood for ‘none of the above’ and UKIP could have wider appeal despite its lack of substance. And while voters soon forget the disasters, the Conservatives are keeping up the momentum of incompetence with more clangers on charities, the ‘green deal’ and a police state.

The upcoming local elections should be an indicator. UKIP could present a clear and present danger to the three main parties.

@7. Northern Worker: “The upcoming local elections should be an indicator.”

Possibly; the idea cannot be excluded. Analysis of local election results is very crude, however, as a consequence of the number of seats. And many local elections are about purely local circumstances, so the results cannot be projected on basis of national popularity.

Sometimes academics and journalists identify local change — but that is after local voters have made up their minds.

“If this set of results was projected over the country” would make more sense if “this set of results” excluded “unusual local circumstances”. But that wouldn’t grab many headlines.

All the same, let us project the results of mayoral elections conducted in 2009 over the country. By those projections, all mainstream parties should be very afraid of Napoleonic monkeys and English Democrats.

IMO the outcome of elections for the French presidency on 22 April and 6 May will be much more interesting.

Try this very tactful piece from Stephanie Flanders (BBC economics editor) on the latest Eurozone crisis:

10. Dick the Prick

Quentin Davis. I ahhaha err.. rest my case. They have a legitinate beef but it ain’t seismic. Fair play to them unlike Quentin Davis ah ha ha ha ha, bangs head on table!

11. Dan Factor

Why is Del Boy a working class Conservative? Because he owns his own business? He could still have voted Labour.

12. Chaise Guevara

+1 to test @6.

Is this actually going to translate into a sizeable lack of votes? I mean, it’d be great if it did, but in terms of national elections people are likely to vote tactically, especially in swing seats.

Also, I can see the pre-election tabloid headlines now:
“Cameron’s a Toff – But He’s the Best Option We’ve Got”
“You Don’t Want Red Ed In Power, Do You? Here’s an Unflattering Picture of Him. LOOK AT HIS STUPID FACE”

13. Chaise Guevara

“Surprisingly (or stupidly) the majority of those who took part in the survey decided Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses would vote Labour, despite clearly being a typical working class Conservative.”

Obviously I’m latching on to the most politically vital issue here. If you’re going to declare that you’re “clearly” right about this, to the point that people who disagree are stupid, you might at least provide some rationale for your opinion.

I suspect that people generally assume that characters and celebs they like vote for the same people as them. Because I’m a clever, decent, normal person, and I vote for X, so surely so do all other clever, decent, normal people.

Cameron has a pig of a job in the next few months!

The next few months is hardly the relevant timescale is it? Except for us saddoes, the only people taking even a tangential notice of politics at the moment are Londoners – and that’s a blip that will be forgotten by the Olympics. It doesn’t really matter that much what the polls say between now and about November 2014. Both governing parties factored into their calculations a massive slump in support, and monstrous Labour poll leads in the midterm period.

I suspect, actually, that the Tories would be happier to be losing votes to UKIP in midterm polls, rather than to Labour. They will think that a lot of this is registering a protest, rather than a serious intention to vote UKIP at the General Election. Rather like the European Elections.

Well I’m no fan of UKIP, but it would be nice if they ate into the Conservative vote. It’d be nice if Respect ate into the Old Labour vote too. It’d be good if the Greens increased their share of the vote too.

I’d be happy if all three main parties lose votes to smaller parties or independents. They need shaking up, ok, it might cause a few problems in the shorter term, but in the longer term I believe we’d gain a much healthier political system.

16. James from Durham


How do you work out that Del Boy is clever or decent or normal?

@15 splat

It will be an interesting GE in 2015, particularly given the reduction in number of MP’s. I’d wager the LD’s will lose a significant number, as will Labour in Scotland. I’m not sure if the reduction in total number will benefit the Tories or Labour UK wide.

I seem to recall that there was some discussion before that “general” boundary commission changes would serve to correct an imbalance in favour of Labour due to their support being more concentrated in urban constituencies which were losing population to the suburbs?

We might end up with another Coalition (and possibly one even more unlikely than the current one) in spite of the AV failure!

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 16

“How do you work out that Del Boy is clever or decent or normal?”

Fair point. I left the most important word off the list, which is “likeable”. Everyone knows that the sort of people you’d want to be friends with vote X – they can’t possibly be like those dreadful sorts who vote Y.

I include myself in this. I always feel a slight disappointment when someone I respect says they vote Conservative. Silly, but there you go.

It has been argued to me today that the DUP has replaced the UUP, that the SNP has taken over almost the whole of the once-mighty Tory vote in Scotland (manifestly, therefore, as mighty as ever, as a bloc of voters), and that the Lib Dems have taken over the Tory vote in the English cities. So, I was asked, why should UKIP not take over the rest?

But the UUP, though very much a Tory party in its heyday, only ever took the Conservative Whip at Westminster, and in any case stopped doing so long before the recent rise of the DUP. For most of their history, the Scottish Unionists were in much the same position.

And the Conservative Party’s expansion into urban and suburban England was largely, and in many places entirely, due to the National Liberals. That was always a Liberal vote, not a Tory one, and it therefore ended up with the Conservative Party because that is fundamentally a Liberal party, not a Tory one.

The Conservative Party is indeed now confined to the Tory bastions. Its position bears no resemblance to the agricultural protectionism, the municipal and ecclesiastical communitarianism, and the bred-in-the-bone social conservatism of those areas. But then, does UKIP’s, either?

did delboy buy his council flat dirt cheap then when Damian went to teh council years later for a council home after delboy had retired adn sold his council flat, was told by the council that damian couldn’t have a council flat as tehy’d all been sold off,

seriously though I recall the 92 basildon election teh sun printed 6 pages of lies the previous day saying laobur was going to put up the basic rate of tax and that headline “If kinnock’s elected will the last people to leave the U.K turn the lights out,”the tories has that everywhere.

Funnily enough in some of the more middle calss areas like Upminster their was A bigger swing than basildon. Livingstone saying that ,it was the middle class that had prevented laobur from winning, Livingstone wrong agian and schanging his tune when he founds out as such,

the pebbel dash thing could be spot on, I recall 2010thinking people vote for the party trhey think will be better for their kids, and that laobur offered nothing to pebbledash man then, not sure if they do now.

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Can Cameron stop the 'Basildon man' from defecting to UKIP?

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    Liberal Conspiracy – Can Cameron stop the ‘Basildon man’ from defecting to UKIP?

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    I'm up on that there Liberal Conspiracy, with an edit of my earlier piece by Sunny 'the knife' Hundal

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    I'm up on that there Liberal Conspiracy, with an edit of my earlier piece by Sunny 'the knife' Hundal

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  7. BevR

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  10. Mark Smithson

    Can Cameron stop the ‘Basildon man’ from defecting to UKIP? | Liberal Conspiracy via @libcon

  11. Gareth Winchester

    I agree with @zelo_street: "[Tim] Montgomerie is a most agreeable chap, but his cluelessness is without parallel"

  12. Jeni Parsons

    I agree with @zelo_street: "[Tim] Montgomerie is a most agreeable chap, but his cluelessness is without parallel"

  13. Trent Smith

    Can Cameron stop the 'Basildon man' from defecting to UKIP …

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