Essex man and Mondeo man are stereotypical figures which were popularised in 1990s England. The "Essex man" as a political figure is an example of a type of median voter and was used to help explain the electoral successes of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The closely related "Mondeo man" was identified as the sort of voter the Labour Party needed to attract to win the election in 1997.
Although the Labour Party was traditionally considered the "natural choice" for the working-class, there has traditionally been a group within that class who have voted Conservative, who are distinct from the "Essex man" phenomenon. After the Second World War, there was considerable social change in South East England. Working-class English families were encouraged to leave the war damaged slums in inner London and move to newly built council owned properties in the suburbs and new towns in the home counties, including Basildon and Harlow in Essex. With the decline of manufacturing and skilled manual work in the 1980s, this group increasingly looked to middle-class professions for employment, or became self-employed.
Essex man and Thatcherism
Margaret Thatcher's policies during her tenure in office from 1979–90 included: lower taxation, control of inflation and sale of council housing stock at subsidised prices. These policies (in particular, the right to buy scheme) are thought to have caused many people who had traditionally voted Labour in Essex to switch their allegiance in the elections of 1979, 1983 and 1987.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists the earliest reference to the Essex man as one from 7 October 1990, in an anonymous article penned by Simon Heffer for The Sunday Telegraph. However, the 26 January 1990 issue of Campaign has the following reference: "Representative [David Amess] of new Essex man, working class, father electrician, right wing, keen hanger, noisily rambunctious, no subtlety". Owing to the similarities between the politics of Thatcher's UK and Ronald Reagan's USA, the contemporary term "Reagan Democrat" is roughly analogous to "Essex man".
The concept of the "Mondeo man" was popularised by a phrase used by then Leader of the Labour Party, Tony Blair at the Labour Party Conference in October 1996. He recalled a Ford Sierra owner he had canvassed in the Midlands whilst out campaigning for the 1992 general election. The man was a self-employed electrician, who Blair met while the man was polishing his car at the weekend, and told Blair that he was an ex-Labour voter who had bought his council house, owned his own car, and wondered what the Labour Party had to offer him given the party's history of raising taxes and mortgage rates:
His dad voted Labour, he said. He used to vote Labour, too. But he'd bought his own house now. He'd set up his own business. He was doing very nicely. "So I've become a Tory" he said. In that moment, he crystallised for me the basis of our failure... His instincts were to get on in life. And he thought our instincts were to stop him. But that was never our history or our purpose.
This is the story that is often credited with inspiring Blair's concept of New Labour, and the "Mondeo man" superseded the "Essex man", as the target of the campaign for the 1997 general election for the Labour Party. (By 1993, the Sierra had been replaced by the Mondeo in the Ford model range, hence the misquote that gave birth to Mondeo Man). Under the leadership of Tony Blair, Labour subsequently won the 1997 general election, with a record landslide majority of 179 MPs.
- Basildon constituency
- Essex girl
- Holby City woman
- Middle England
- Motorway man
- Nouveau riche
- Person having ordinary skill in the art
- Placeholder name
- Reagan Democrat
- Selsdon Man
- Southern Discomfort (Fabian Society pamphlets)
- The Only Way Is Essex
- White van man
- Worcester woman
- Florida Man
- Workington man
- Swabian Housewife
- Ollie Stone-Lee, Who's the new Mondeo man?, BBC News 2 January 2005
- Tanner, D., Political Change and the Labour Party 1900–1918 (1990)
- Butler, T., Social Change and the Middle Classes (1995)
- Israeli, R. and Ball, S., Mass Conservatism (2002)
- "What sort of person signs up as an advertiser?", Campaign, January 26, 1990
- Biressi, Anita; Heather Nunn (2013). Class and Contemporary British Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 23–37. ISBN 9780230240568.
- British Political Speech | Speech Archive, "BritishPoliticalSpeech", accessed 25 March 2018
- M. Wiliams (2000). Crisis and Consensus in British Politics: From Bagehot to Blair. Springer. p. 195. ISBN 978-0333775714 – via Google Books snippets.
- Michael Streeter, Election '97: This time, prime target is Mondeo Man, The Independent, 10 April 1997
- George Jones, Does Mondeo Man Matter Any More?, Daily Telegraph, 28 April 2007
- Taxation: Squeezing middle Britain The Guardian, Monday 31 January 2011
- "The ex-wife's story: My violent life with the Suffolk strangler- and his flirtation on the QE2 with Suzy Lamplugh". London Evening Standard. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2019.